Long prison terms for democracy campaign

Tran Anh Kim was convicted under Article 79 during his trial in 2009. Photo courtesy of AFP.

Tran Anh Kim was convicted under Article 79 during his trial in 2009. Photo courtesy of AFP.

A former army officer and his colleague have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

In a swift one day trial in Thai Binh province just south of Haiphong, Tran Anh Kim, a former Lieutenant-Colonel who served in the Vietnam War, was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

His colleague, Le Thanh Tung, received a 12 year term on the same charge: “activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under article 79 of the penal code.

Mr Kim, 66, was arrested in September last year and accused of preparing to launch an organisation aimed at promoting democracy in Vietnam.

The police alleged that documents on his laptop revealed plans to launch a group called the “National Force to Launch the Democracy Flag”.

Mr Kim had been free for just eight months when he was arrested. He had served a five and a half year term, also under article 79, for involvement with the outlawed Democratic party.

He had developed a reputation as one of the most determined political dissidents in Vietnam.

Le Thanh Tung was accused of being the spokesman for the new group, which it is alleged, was due to be launched on the day of their arrest last year.

Both men denied the charges against them and said they intended to appeal.

Their supporters say they were the only two members of the group, which was not intended as an insurrectionary movement but merely to promote the ideas of democracy and political pluralism.