Vietnam jails man for 14 years for attempting to overthrow state

HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam has jailed a man for 14 years for attempting to overthrow the state, in cahoots with a group based in the United States, the Ministry of Public Security said on Wednesday.

Phan Van Binh, 47, was accused by the court of working for a California-based group called the Provisional National Government of Vietnam, which opposes the ruling Communist Party, the ministry said in a statement on its official news website.

“Binh’s activities were serious violations of the law which undermined national unity, infringed upon national security, and went against the national interest,” the ministry said, citing state prosecutors present at the one-day trial in the central province of Khanh Hoa.

Despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism.

Binh uploaded posts to his Facebook account that “smeared the image of Ho Chi Minh, and the leaders of the party and the state”, the ministry said in its statement, referring to the Vietnamese revolutionary leader and founding president.

Binh’s Facebook posts “distorted the Party’s history and guidance, and the state’s policies and laws, with the aim of overthrowing the people’s administration,” the ministry said.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment.

Reuters was unable to identify and contact Binh’s lawyers.

Telephone calls to the court went unanswered.

The Provisional National Government of Vietnam, which is listed by the Ministry of Public Security as a “terrorist organization”, did not respond to a request for comment.

The organization’s leader, Dao Minh Quan, assigned Binh to recruit people into joining the group by using his telephone to show videos created by the organization to his neighbors, the ministry said.

Facebook is widely used in Vietnam and serves as the main platform for dissidents. This month, Vietnam accused Facebook of violating a new cybersecurity law by allowing users to post anti-government comments.

Reporting by James Pearson in HANOI; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in LOS ANGELES; Editing by Robert Birsel