September 26, 2018 / 10:21 AM / 24 days ago

Vietnam jails 15 more over economic zone protests

HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam jailed 15 people on Wednesday for terms ranging from two to 4-1/2 years after they were arrested during mass protests in June against plans for special economic zones, state media said.

A Vietnamese policeman sits among defendants, who were arrested after they protested against plans for special economic zones in June, during a trial at a court in Binh Thuan province, Vietnam, September 26, 2018. Nguyen Thanh/VNA via REUTERS

Despite sweeping reforms, communist-ruled Vietnam tolerates little dissent, with protests often broken up by police, though the constitution allows freedom of assembly.

The southeast Asian nation has jailed dozens of people for joining in the protests, triggered by fears that investors from China would dominate 99-year land leases up for development in the zones.

At a one-day trial, a court in Vietnam’s central province of Binh Thuan convicted the 15, aged between 18 and 33, on charges of causing public disorder, the Voice of Vietnam Radio said.

“Their violations significantly affected local security and safety, causing danger to society,” it cited the jury as saying.

Those convicted pleaded guilty and expressed their remorse at the trial, it said.

According to the indictment, the demonstrators were found to have been hurling bricks, sticks and gasoline bombs at the police and causing traffic jams, it added.

Lawyers for the protesters were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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