Vietnamese court sentences US citizens to 14 years in jail

August 22, 2018 GMT

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A court in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City sentenced two Americans of Vietnamese descent to 14 years in jail on Wednesday after finding them guilty of attempting to overthrow the government, state media reported.

James Nguyen and Angle Phan, alleged members of the California-based Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, were convicted of assigning group members to distribute anti-state leaflets, take over radio stations to broadcast anti-government messages and participate in anti-state protests, the official Vietnam News Agency said.

Ten local members of the group were convicted on the same charges in the two-day trial and sentenced to between five and 11 years in prison, it said.

The two American citizens will be deported after serving their sentences, it said.

“The defendants’ acts are particularly serious, violating national security, sabotaging the country’s stability and development, causing instability in political and social order and going against the interests of the state,” the agency quoted the judges as saying.

Court officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

“We will continue to monitor Mr. Nguyen’s welfare, advocate for him and provide consular services until his release,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Pope Thrower said in a statement.

In January, the Ministry of Public Security declared the little-known group a terrorist organization, a month after 15 of its local members were convicted and sentenced up to 16 years in prison for an alleged failed bombing at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

Despite sweeping economic reforms since the mid-1980s that opened the country to foreign trade and investment and made the country one of fastest growing economies in the world, the Communist government tolerates no challenge to its one-party rule.

Some Western governments and international human rights groups have criticized Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views. The Vietnamese government says only law breakers are put behind bars.