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Asia

Major political trial opens in Vietnam

Vietnam has put more than 20 people on trial on allegations that they tried to overthrow the country’s communist government. This is one of Vietnam's biggest subversion trials in years.

All 22 suspects who went on trial in the central province of Phu Yen are members of a political organization called Hoi Dong Cong Luat Cong An Bia Son. The group's name means "council for the laws and public affairs of Bia Son," which is a mountain in the province.

Prosecutors accuse the suspects of taking part in "activities aimed at overthrowing people's administration."

The official Vietnam News Agency reported that the group, which has about 300 members in the country's central and southern provinces, had attempted to "wear down people's trust in the party and state leadership and create suspicion and concern about the current regime." It also accused the organization of receiving funding from expatriate Vietmamese nationals.

If convicted of the charge, the suspects could face the death penalty, but this is thought to be unlikely as Vietnam's communist government has never executed anyone convicted of crimes of a political nature. The trial is scheduled to last for five days.

Vietnam has jailed dozens of political activists since the regime began a crackdown on freedom of expression four years ago. Earlier this month 14 activists, including Catholics, bloggers and students were convicted of political crimes and sentenced to up to 13 years in prison.

pfd/hc (AFP, dpa)