Three pro-democracy activists, including a 70-year-old retired Australian baker, are standing trial in Ho Chi Minh City after being accused by Vietnam of “terrorist activities against the state.”
Vietnamese citizens Nguyen Van Vien, 48, and Tran Van Quyen, 20, and Australian citizen Chau Van Kham, 70, were initially arrested in January and charged with attempting to overthrow the Vietnamese state.
But the charge was later changed to terrorism, according to banned pro-democracy opposition party Viet Tan.
All three men are accused of being affiliated with the Viet Tan, according to Human Rights Watch.
Kham, who was born in Vietnam but fled to Australia in his youth, is a member of the Viet Tan in Sydney.
He was arrested alongside Vien in Ho Chi Minh City while visiting Vietnam in January. Vien is a member of online advocacy group Brotherhood for Democracy, which is banned in Vietnam.
Time for @ScottMorrisonMP & @MarisePayne to campaign for the release of detained #Australian citizen Chau Van Kham in #Vietnam. Advocating for democracy is not 'terrorist' activity, @dfat should demand #Hanoi release him, let him return home to #Australia! https://t.co/uUKzeOnIbE pic.twitter.com/VzFxIS8O2z
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) November 11, 2019
The trial took place at a court in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday with a verdict announcement expected in the afternoon. Each defendant faces up to 15 years in jail.
Despite being a public trial, only a limited number of people could attend, and police surrounded the court to prevent further access.
“Being affiliated with a political party the Communist Party of Vietnam disapproves of is not a crime,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government of Vietnam should adopt a pluralist political system to curb the monopoly of power instead of punishing those who explore some alternatives,” Pearson added.
Vietnam is a single-party communist state that regularly arrests and detains political dissidents and limits freedom of speech.