Vietnamese American jailed for attempt to overthrow government

By Hai Duyen   June 24, 2019 | 01:38 am PT
Vietnamese American jailed for attempt to overthrow government
Police escort Vietnamese American Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen (C) at a trial for attempting to overthrow the Vietnamese government, in Ho Chi Minh City, June 24, 2019. Photos by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
A Vietnamese American man and three local men were sentenced to prison on Wednesday for plotting to overthrow the Vietnamese government.

A Ho Chi Minh City court sentenced Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, 55, a Vietnamese American, 12 years behind bars on the charge of "carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration." He will be deported as soon as he finishes his jail term.

Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, 23, got 10 years and Tran Long Phi, 21, got eight years for the same charge. Both of them will be placed under house arrest for a further three years after serving their jail terms. Huynh Duc Thinh, Binh’s father, was sentenced to one year in jail for failing to denounce the crime.

Several others believed to be leading members of the group, including Le Quoc Phong and Nguyen Van Be Hai, have either run away or live abroad. Investigators are hunting them.

Police take Huynh Duc Thanh Binh to the trial in HCMC, June 24, 2019.

Police take Huynh Duc Thanh Binh to the trial in HCMC, June 24, 2019.

The verdict said that Nguyen, Binh and the now wanted Phong teamed up with several others outside the nation to discuss the political and social situation in Vietnam towards making changes. In August 2017, Nguyen traveled from the U.S. to Vietnam to establish local connections and study issues that attract public concerns.

The investigators said the group established an organization called "Quoc noi quat khoi" (rebellion in the country) to discuss and assign tasks for members, from organizing propaganda to planning acquisition of weapons, instigating people to protest, and occupying government headquarters in HCMC and Hanoi, the country's two biggest cities.

The purpose of the group was to incite riots to overthrow the government of Vietnam and abolish the leadership of the Communist Party, the indictment said.

Tran Long Phi at the court in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tran Long Phi at the court in Ho Chi Minh City.

Phong had received $2,000 from Nguyen and AUD300 ($210) from Hai, an Australian resident, to buy weapons and fund other activities of the organization.

On June 30, 2018, Nguyen, Phi, and Binh met at the house of Binh's father. Binh and Phi were assigned to prepare gasoline bombs and slingshots to attack police and state agencies as well as print and spread propaganda. The three asked many people to join them, threatening several residents that they would explode bombs in public places, investigation found.

On July 3 last year, the three traveled to Khanh Hoa Province and Hue in central Vietnam to convince more people to join their protests. Four days later, they were arrested as they returned to HCMC.

At the trial, all the defendants accepted the verdict. Prosecutors argued that their activities were "especially dangerous," directly threatening the existence of the government.

The maximum penalty for conducting activities to overthrow the government is death in Vietnam.

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