4 Feb 2013

22 jailed over subversion charges in Vietnam

11:01 pm on 4 February 2013

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a group of 22 people to long jail terms after a trial on charges of trying to overthrow the Communist government.

The group's leader, Phan Van Thu, was given a life sentence; the others were jailed for between 10 and 17 years with five years of house arrest after that.

Prosecutors said the group had set up an eco-tourism company as a front for activities aimed at overthrowing the government, the BBC reports.

State-appointed defence lawyer Nguyen Huong Que said the 22 men convicted in Phu Yen had "admitted their crime of aiming to overthrow the people's administration".

They were members of a little-known group called the Council for the Laws and Public Affairs of Bia Son [a mountain in Phu Yen].

The week-long trial was the largest of its kind in several years, as the government cracks down on dissent despite international criticism.

Last month, a court convicted 14 activists on similar charges.

In that case, 13 people - mostly Catholics, including bloggers and students - accused of having links to the banned Viet Tan group were jailed for between three and 13 years, while one received a suspended sentence.

Dozens of political activists have been sent to prison since the Vietnamese authorities began a renewed clampdown on the freedom of expression in 2009.