Jail terms for protesters with more trials to come

Will Nguyen faces a potential prison sentence for taking part in the Ho Chi Minh protest

A Vietnamese court has sentenced six men to jail terms of between 24 and 30 months for their role in violent clashes with police during last month’s protests.

Dozens of other protesters are still being detained following the demonstrations which rocked major cities on June 10 and the days that followed.

The family of a 32-year-old American, Will Nguyen, says that he will face trial on July 20 on a charge of disturbing public order. He was seen being dragged away by police during the Ho Chi Minh City protest.

Tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets to protest against government plans to set up new special economic zones that many Vietnamese fear will be exploited by Chinese companies.

“Speedy resolution”

Most of the protests were relatively peaceful, but violent clashes broke out in the southern province of Binh Thuan, where crowds of youths threw bottles and stones at police.

After a one day trial, six men were convicted of “disturbing public order” in the province and sentenced to prison terms.

The case of Will Nguyen has attracted most attention in the American media and on social media because of the implications for relations between the two countries.

The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, called for a “speedy resolution” of the case during a visit to Vietnam last week.

That was not enough for Mr Nguyen’s family, who want the US government to demand his immediate release.

His sister, Victoria, posted on Facebook that her brother had been badly beaten by police during the protest even though he took no part in violence and was merely showing his support for the right to demonstrate.

He could face a fine of $2,000 or a 7-year sentence if convicted.

Some analysts still expect him to be treated leniently despite the decision to prosecute. He appeared in a police video tape apologising for any trouble he caused and undertaking not to repeat his actions.

The authorities have permitted consular visits and Mr Nguyen says that he is now in good health despite the injuries he sustained during his arrest.