French-Vietnamese man charged over plot: official media

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A French-Vietnamese citizen has been charged with attempted subversion against the communist government in Vietnam, official media reported Thursday.

Pham Minh Hoang, 55, is accused of "plotting to overthrow the government" and of being a member of the US-based Viet Tan "terrorist organisation," the Vietnam News reported.

Viet Tan, the Vietnam Reform Party, describes itself as non-violent and pro-democracy but is banned in Vietnam.

Tuoi Tre daily newspaper said Hoang has been charged under Article 79 of the Penal code, which can lead to jail or a death sentence upon conviction.

Between 2002 and May of this year, Hoang allegedly wrote 29 articles "distorting the state's policies and activities," Vietnam News said, citing Colonel Nguyen Xuan Mung, deputy chief of investigations at the Ministry of Public Security.

"Whether my husband is a member of Viet Tan or not, what he did has always been peaceful and without any conspiracy to overthrow the regime," his wife, Le Thi Kieu Oanh, told AFP.

In a statement, a spokesman for Viet Tan challenged the government to publish Hoang's writings "so the Vietnamese people can decide whether he's a criminal or a patriot."

He had been engaged in entirely peaceful activities, the spokesman said.

Hoang went to France in 1973 but returned after 27 years to settle in Vietnam, where he worked as a mathematics lecturer at the Polytechnic University of Ho Chi Minh City, his wife said after his arrest in August.

In January, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced four men to as much as 16 years in prison after convicting them of a well-organised non-violent campaign, in collusion with "overseas exile reactionary organisations" aimed at overthrowing the government with the help of the Internet.

It was the most prominent in a series of arrests and convictions of dissidents and bloggers during the previous year, and triggered criticism from the United States and the European Union.

Hoang's case comes after a relative lull in the arrest of dissidents.

A French embassy spokeswoman said Thursday she could not immediately comment on the matter.

Viet Tan says three other members of its organisation have also been arrested. Authorities have yet to comment on their status.

© 2010 AFP

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