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Vietnam jails ex-lawyer for 'attempt to topple state' with US group

Agence France-Presse
Vietnam jails ex-lawyer for 'attempt to topple state' with US group
This picture from the Vietnam News Angecy taken and released on June 27, 2019 shows former lawyer Tran Cong Khai (R) being sentenced to eight years in prison for "attempting to overthrow the state" in Ho Chi Minh City. A former Vietnamese lawyer was sentenced to eight years in prison on June 27 for "attempting to overthrow the state" with the support of an outlawed US-based anti-communist group, state media reported.
Vietnam News Agency / AFP

HANOI, Vietnam — A former Vietnamese lawyer was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday for "attempting to overthrow the state" with the support of an outlawed US-based anti-communist group, state media reported.

Tran Cong Khai was accused of working with the Provisional National Government of Vietnam (PNGV), a California-based organization with a self-appointed prime minister that pledges allegiance to the former South Vietnam regime.

A Ho Chi Minh City court found him guilty of calling people to join a referendum to usher PNGV's leader Dao Minh Quan into power, with the intention of bringing him back to Vietnam to rule, the official Vietnam News Agency reported.

He was also accused of planning an attack at a 2017 meeting of world leaders from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which included US President Donald Trump, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping of China. 

Khai was arrested before the alleged attack could take place, VNA said. 

The court said Khai's actions were "very serious and dangerous for society", VNA reported, adding that Khai "admitted his crimes" at the half-day trial.

He was given eight years for attempting to overthrow the government, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of death.

The trial comes just days after US citizen Michael Nguyen was jailed for 12 years on the same charges alongside two activists.

The father of four was arrested in July last year during a trip to Vietnam from his hometown in California. 

He was accused of preparing armed protest and the occupation of official "headquarters" in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and having links to outlawed anti-government groups, which his family denies. 

Vietnam routinely jails activists, bloggers and lawyers but convictions have risen under a hardline administration in charge since 2016.

PNGV is classified as a "terrorist" organization by Vietnam's communist government.

It was established in 1990 in California, where large numbers of Vietnamese refugees settled after the end of the war.

Its members, many of whom wear the yellow-and-red-striped southern flag of the former Saigon regime, say their aim is to "liberate Vietnam from communism".

HANOI VIETNAM
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