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Vietnam Tries 14 'Opposition Members' For Subversion
Source: http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20130108-394190.html
Source Date: Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Viet Nam
Created: Jan 08, 2013

HANOI - Fourteen Vietnamese accused of links to a banned US-based opposition group went on trial Tuesday on charges of attempting to overthrow the communist government.

The defendants, who include Catholics, bloggers and students, appeared in a provincial court in Nghe An about 300 kilometres (190 miles) south of Hanoi, a court clerk told AFP, declining to provide further details.

"The prosecutors accused all the defendants of participating in the Viet Tan Group," defence lawyer Tran Thu Nam told AFP after the hearing. Hanoi claims the US-based group is a terrorist organisation.

"Some of the defendants admitted their mistakes. Others did not," he said, adding that security at the trial had been very tight and a verdict was expected on Wednesday.

If convicted the 14 - who are aged between 24 and 55 - could face long prison terms or the death penalty, although the communist regime has never executed anyone for anti-state activity.

The authoritarian country's state-controlled media made no mention of the trial, which overseas activists said was one of the largest of its kind.

Charges of spreading anti-state propaganda and attempting to overthrow the regime are routinely laid against dissidents in a country where the communist party forbids political debate.

Some of the defendants are among a group of 17 people who have appealed to the UN's working group on arbitrary detentions to intervene on their behalf.

The detainees have suffered various violations of human rights including the rights to expression, assembly, and association, according to Stanford Law School lecturer Allen Weiner who is helping with their petition to the UN.

"Most of the petitioners have been jailed for an extended period of time without meaningful judicial process," he said in a statement.

Vietnam "continues to use its legal system as a tool for the repression of the exercise of civil and political rights that are protected under international law", he added.

Activists on Tuesday posted photos online showing hundreds of police surrounding the courtroom in Nghe An. They said several people who had turned up to support the detainees had been harassed and detained.

Rights group say dozens of peaceful political activists have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam, a one-party state, launched a fresh crackdown on free expression in late 2009.
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