By Stefan J. Bos, Chiefr International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- Political dissidents in Vietnam were preparing for a difficult court case Friday, November 3, after officials said they would be charged with "terrorism" even after authorities made efforts to convince the United States that freedom of expression and religious liberty for Christians had improved in the Communist nation.
Seven political dissidents, including three naturalized American citizens, were to be tried for allegedly plotting against the government, by bombing Vietnamese embassies and spreading propaganda via radio.
The seven were arrested last year and are accused of taking orders from a pro-democracy activist Hanoi considers "a terrorist." The alleged ringleader, Nguyen Huu Chanh, is a Vietnamese-born citizen of the United States, while three other United States residents are part of the group to be tried.
Chanh was detained in South Korea in the past year following a request by Vietnam. He is a member of a U.S.-based group called Government of Free Vietnam but he has not yet been extradited.
In published statements, prosecutors said that "in order to carry out the plot, Nguyen Huu Chanh and his accomplices stopped at nothing, including terrorist bombing and using radio broadcasts to call for an uprising and then to stir unrest and upset the lives of cadres, public employees and ordinary people."
It came after news emerged the US Embassy in Hanoi had been told that 18 Vietnamese churches have been registered, seen as a recognition by the state, but without informing the churches themselves. Vietnamese Christians have reportedly expressed concern that giving membersâ€™ names is part of the registration process. They fear local authorities have used the information to threaten believers and raid worship services.
Elsewhere in Vietnam authorities cancelled Attorney Le Thi Cong Nhanâ€™s trip to the International Conference on Workersâ€™ Rights in which she had been invited to attend, deporting her from the airport last week, dissidents told BosNewsLife. The Conference was top be held in Warsaw, Poland on October 28 and 29 under the sponsorship of Polish Congress and Solidarity, the trade union which played a crucial role in the collapse of Communism in 1989, BosNewsLife learned. Vietnam is still a Communist-run nation.
Just hours after the airport incident, October 27, hundreds of people attacked popular Vietnamese novelist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy in Hanoi, an official of the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam told
"This group of more than 200 people which included uniformed and plain-clothed police, hired street gangsters, veteransâ€¦[They] broke in her home, jumped up and down her bed [and also] punched and kicked her, and her husband, in their faces, heads and bodies" said Spokesman Viet Si in a statement to BosNewsLife, which was also sent to the US Embassy in Hanoi.
While they were attacked by several hard-liners, the crowd allegedly shouted "punish you bastards (who) cling to (American) stupid buttheads..." They were also described as "ugly betrayers [with a], bad-mouth (about) the extra great (Communist) Party (of Vietnam)" while telling "lies" about Communist leaders, the dissidents said.
"Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and her husband have been persecuted ceaselessly for months after they had voiced their honest opinions about the messy social, political and religious situations [in the country] and especially about the systematic and nationwide corruption in Vietnam," Si added. "We have been informed she and her husband might be inflicted serious injuries after the group assault."
There were no official comments on the recent reported incident, but the different signals apparently given by Vietnamese authorities was expected to add to confusion among American and other officials as to how far the country is willing to reform, ahead of a crucial November 17-20 visit to Vietnam by US President George W. Bush.
Security and anti-terrorism are expected to be major issues for leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in the Vietnamese capital November 12-19, Reuters news agency reported. The group includes the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Washington and Hanoi signed a trade deal on May 31 that helped Vietnam toward next week's expected accession to the World Trade Organization.
Several dissidents and human rights groups contacting BosNewsLife have raised concerns that the United States and European Union countries have praised Hanoi in the last two years for allegedly improving its human rights and religious rights record by allowing some faiths to practice and by releasing some imprisoned dissidents and religious leaders.
They see the moves must be seen as "cosmetic" rather than structural changes in the country, as many people are still imprisoned for their Christian faith or political opinions. They include at least over 350, predominantly Christian, Montagnards, activists say. (With BosNewsLife Research BosNewsLife News Center and reports from Vietnam).
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