Vietnam jails US man for 12 years for trying to overthrow state

Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen family says he has never been involved in any type of activism.

    Nguyen pleaded guilty and asked for a reduced sentence so that he could reunite with his family [Reuters]
    Nguyen pleaded guilty and asked for a reduced sentence so that he could reunite with his family [Reuters]

    A court in Vietnam has sentenced a US citizen to 12 years in prison after finding him guilty of "attempting to overthrow the state", the man's lawyer said.

    Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, a 55-year-old father of four, pleaded guilty before the Ho Chi Minh City court on Monday during a trial which lasted only half a day.

    Nguyen asked the court that his sentence be reduced so that he could reunite with his family, his lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng told Reuters news agency.

    Nguyen was accused of inciting Vietnamese people to join nationwide protests in June 2018 and of attempting to attack government officials in capital Hanoi and in Ho Chi Minh City with Molotov cocktails and a slingshot, the state-owned Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

    He will be deported after serving his jail sentence.

    Born in Vietnam and raised in the United States since childhood, Nguyen was arrested in Vietnam in 2018 on suspicion of activities against the government, according to his brother-in-law, Mark Roberts.

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    Nguyen lives in Orange County, California, where he runs a printing business and was visiting friends in Vietnam at the time of his arrest, according to Roberts. 

    The Provisional National Government of Vietnam, an exiled group opposed to the Communist government in Hanoi, is based in Orange County. Nguyen's sister-in-law Christine Nguyen said he had no involvement with the group or any other activism.

    Despite sweeping economic reforms and increasing openness to social change, the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam maintains strict media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

    The court on Monday also sentenced two Vietnamese men to eight and 10 years in prison for the same offence as Nguyen, Mieng said, adding that they will face three years under house arrest after serving their prison terms.

    "Their objective is to cause riots in an attempt to overthrow the administration of Vietnam and eradicate the leading role of the [Communist] party," the Tuoi Tre report cited the indictment as saying. 

    Nguyen's arrest followed that of another US citizen, Will Nguyen, who was also arrested in Vietnam in June 2018 for taking part in protests. He was convicted of disturbing public order and deported.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies