HANOI (Reuters) – A Vietnamese court found five people guilty of attempting to overthrow the state on Friday, and sentenced them to between eight and 15 years in prison, police said after a one-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City.
The indictment cited by police said the five had founded in 2016 a group called the “Vietnam National Coalition” that was intent on overthrowing the state.
The group’s chairman, Luu Van Vinh, had written posts on social media “saying that the current political regime of Vietnam was outdated and would be eliminated”, the Ministry of Public Security said on its official news website.
Vinh was handed a 15-year jail term, while the others were given lighter sentences, but even after their release they will all face additional three years of house arrest, the police said.
Reuters could not immediately reach the lawyers for the five. VnExpress online newspaper reported that Vinh had not pleaded guilty at the trial.
Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party does not tolerate criticism and is particularly sensitive to organised groups of dissidents.
State media reports cited the indictment as saying that the coalition “distorted the guidelines and policies of the (Communist) Party of Vietnam”.
Vietnam earlier this year had jailed several members of a pro-democracy group, having accused them of “anti-government activities”.
Several members of the Viet Tan, a U.S.-based human rights group that Vietnam regards as a “terrorist” body, have also been jailed in Vietnam over the recent years.
(Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)