Three democracy activists, including an Australian of Vietnamese descent, are to go on trial on Nov. 11 accused of “terrorist activities against the state,” a democracy advocacy group said.
Nguyen Van Vien, Chau Van Kham, and Tran Van Quyen were arrested in January on charges of “attempting to overthrow the state,” but the charges were later amended to include terrorism, Viet Tan, an opposition party based in the United States, said on Nov.5, reported RFA.
“Vietnamese authorities have failed to provide any evidence that the activists engaged in any ‘terrorist’ activities,” Viet Tan said in statement, adding that the indictment was littered with “distorted information.”
Chau Van Kam, a Viet Tan member from the Vietnamese community in Sydney, and Nguyen Van Vien, a member of a banned advocacy group called Brotherhood for Democracy, were arrested on Jan. 13 in Ho Chi Minh City, the opposition group said.
Vien, from Vietnam’s Quang Nam province, had been campaigning for environmental protection following a massive toxic waste spill by the Taiwanese-owned firm Formosa in 2016, the Brotherhood for Democracy said in a statement just after his arrest.
The spill destroyed the livelihoods of thousands along Vietnam’s central coast that led to widespread protests.
Tran Van Quyen, a social activist who also took part in these protests was arrested ten days after the other two in Binh Duong province, in the south of the country, Viet Tan said.
Lawyers representing Kham and Vien said there was nothing in the indictments that pointed to terrorism.
“Terrorist activities are often violent and destructive and used to threaten and create fear among the public,” Dang Dinh Manh, a defense lawyer representing Vien told Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese Service.
“But in this case, no one is said to have done anything like this. In the indictment, prosecutors are trying only to prove that these persons have connections to Viet Tan,” he said.
The case against Chau Van Kham only shows he entered Vietnam from Cambodia using false papers and had met Vien and Quyen to invite them to join Viet Tan, his lawyer Trinh Vinh Phuc said.
“And yet the authorities are accusing him of ‘participating in a terrorist organization and financing terrorist activity,’ which are serious charges,” he said.
The charges carry a maximum jail term of 15 years, he added.
Viet Tan challenged authorities to back up their terrorism claims with evidence.
According to the group’s chairman, Do Hoang Diem, Chau Van Kham went to Vietnam to gain first-hand insight into the human rights situation there, while the other two are “peaceful activists.”
“We are prepared to bring the Vietnamese government to an international forum to present the truth,” he said on Nov. 5.
According to Amnesty International there are 128 political prisoners, currently being held by the communist authorities, many of whom are rights activists and bloggers who are regarded as threats to national security.