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Vietnamese court sentences U.S. citizens to 14 years in jail

The U.S. citizens were convicted of assigning people to distribute anti-state leaflets, take over radio stations and participate in protests.
Image: U.S. citizen Angel Phan is escorted by police to a court before her trial in Ho Chi Minh city
U.S. citizen Angel Phan is escorted by police to a court before her trial in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam August 21, 2018. Picture taken Aug. 21, 2018.Reuters
/ Source: Associated Press

HANOI, Vietnam — A court in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City sentenced two Americans of Vietnamese descent to 14 years in jail on Wednesday after finding them guilty of attempting to overthrow the government, state media reported.

James Nguyen and Angel Phan, alleged members of the California-based Provisional Central Government of Vietnam, were convicted of assigning group members to distribute anti-state leaflets, take over radio stations to broadcast anti-government messages and participate in anti-state protests, the official Vietnam News Agency said.

Ten local members of the group were convicted on the same charges in the two-day trial and sentenced to between five and 11 years in prison, it said.

U.S. citizen James Nguyen is escorted by police to a court before his trial in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam Aug. 21, 2018.Reuters

The two American citizens will be deported after serving their sentences, it said.

"The defendants' acts are particularly serious, violating national security, sabotaging the country's stability and development, causing instability in political and social order and going against the interests of the state," the agency quoted the judges as saying.

Court officials were not available for comment Wednesday.

"We will continue to monitor Mr. Nguyen's welfare, advocate for him and provide consular services until his release," U.S. Embassy spokesman Pope Thrower said in a statement.

Members of California-based Provisional National Government of Vietnam stand with policemen during a trial in Ho Chi Minh city on Aug. 22, 2018.Vietnam News Agency / via AFP - Getty Images

In January, the Ministry of Public Security declared the little-known group a terrorist organization, a month after 15 of its local members were convicted and sentenced up to 16 years in prison for an alleged failed bombing at Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

Despite sweeping economic reforms since the mid-1980s that opened the country to foreign trade and investment and made the country one of fastest growing economies in the world, the Communist government tolerates no challenge to its one-party rule.

Some Western governments and international human rights groups have criticized Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views. The Vietnamese government says only law breakers are put behind bars.

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