Report: Vietnam investigates 6 democracy activists for terrorism

International Herald Tribune

Report: Vietnam investigates 6 democracy activists for terrorism

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

 

HANOI, Vietnam: Police seized pro-democracy leaflets during the arrest of six dissidents earlier this month, and they were investigating the group for terrorism, state media reported Wednesday.

Three of the detainees were members of Viet Tan, a California-based pro-democracy group that says it promotes nonviolent change but that Vietnamese authorities consider a terrorist organization.

The six detainees included a U.S. citizen, a French citizen and a Thai national, all of Vietnamese descent, as well as two Vietnamese citizens. Viet Tan said the sixth person was also a U.S. citizen, but Vietnamese authorities said his nationality was unclear.

The U.S. Embassy said it was also investigating the incident and that it has requested meetings with any U.S. citizens who were arrested.

Police arrested the six on Nov. 17 while they were stuffing pro-democracy fliers into envelopes at a home in Ho Chi Minh City, Wednesday’s Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said, citing a police report.

The paper said the police report offered no evidence that the group was engaged in violence, and authorities have not specified why they believe the group was promoting terrorism.

Police seized nearly 7,000 leaflets, 8,000 envelopes, 3,775 postage stamps and 1,000 stickers with Viet Tan’s logo, the newspaper report said. The leaflets also publicized a radio broadcast the group produced called “Radio New Horizon: A Voice For Vietnam’s Democracy.”

Vietnamese authorities, who don’t tolerate challenges to communist rule, have said repeatedly in the past that they regard the group as a terrorist organization bent on overthrowing the government of Vietnam.

“Since early 2007, Viet Tan continues to send its members into the country legally and illegally to work with associates inside Vietnam to distribute leaflets, incite demonstrations and violence, disturb security, and cause political instability,” the newspaper quoted the police report as saying.

On Wednesday, Viet Tan e-mailed to the media copies of the flier it said the six detainees had circulated. The flier repeatedly said the organization promoted “nonviolent struggle.”

The group said it has members around the world, including underground in Vietnam.

Last week, the Vietnamese government confirmed the arrests of U.S. citizen Truong Leon, French citizen Nguyen Thi Thanh Van and Thai national Somsak Khunmi on Nov. 17, but declined to say what crimes they committed.

Viet Tan, or Vietnam Reform, said the detainees were discussing ways to promote peaceful democratic change.

In the past 15 months, Vietnam has arrested more than 40 democracy activists, opposition party members and labor union leaders, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

On Tuesday, Vietnam reduced the sentences of two human rights attorneys who were convicted earlier this year of distributing anti-government propaganda.

Nguyen Van Dai’s sentence was reduced from five years to four, and Le Thi Cong Nhan’s sentence was cut from four years to three.

Both will have to serve several years of probation after their release.

Human Rights Watch said the pair should be set free immediately. “No one should be imprisoned for peaceful expression of their views,” it said in a statement.

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