01/20/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Ho Chi Minh City, trial begins against four pro human rights activists

Among them is Paul Le Cong Dinh, a Catholic lawyer and critic of the communist government. They risk from a minimum of 12 years to death. Democratic movements abroad denounce the "growing repression" of those fighting for freedom of expression.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The trial lawyer Paul Le Cong Dinh Catholic and three other democracy activists started today at the people's court in Ho Chi Minh City. The defendants are accused of subversion and conspiracy to overthrow the communist government. They risk a sentence ranging from a minimum of 12 years in prison to death.

The case brought against Vietnamese activists has aroused resentment abroad. Pro human rights groups consider it a sign of the growing repression of democratic movements and those fighting for freedom of expression. The hearing should last two days.  

For some time the Vietnamese government has not held a trial on charges of subversion, considered one of the most serious crimes by the communist regime. The four defendants - Paul Le Cong Dinh, 41, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, 43, Nguyen Tien Trung, 26, and Le Thang Long, 42 - were arrested last June on a less serious charge: spreading anti-government propaganda. However, in early December, the prosecutor aggravated the position of those arrested with more serious charges.  

Paul Le Cong Dinh (pictured), a Vietnamese Catholic lawyer of 41 years, has repeatedly defended human rights activists and is the author of publications that highlight the shortcomings of the economic, social and political development of his country.

In the case filed by prosecutor - the government Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reports - it also speaks of "links with groups reactionary and hostile elements in exile" to form "reactionary political organizations." The aim would be to "undermine" the political leadership by a non-violent revolution "in an attempt to realize their "peaceful evolution ".  

It seems unlikely that the activists in the dock will be condemned to capital punishment. However, they are likely to spend several years in prison.  

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