Seven activists –including three Mennonite Christians – are to go on trial in Vietnam accused of attempting to overthrow the government. The activists, who were campaigning for land rights, face a long prison sentence or the death penalty if found guilty. Pastor Duong Kim Khai, Tran Thi Thuy and Nguyen Thanh Tam have been held since August last year without access to lawyers or their families, the London-based rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said in a statement yesterday. They are members of an unrecognised branch of the Mennonite church in Ho Chi Minh City. They were campaigning on behalf of people whose farmland was forcibly sold by local government to large corporations. They are also said to be members of Viet Tan, an overseas-based democracy party. Duong Kim Khai was bundled into a car by five or six people at his workshop in Ho Chi Minh City on August 10, 2010, CSW said. His workshop was searched and materials relating to the campaign were confiscated. People close to the case told CSW Pastor Khai is a gentle man who wanted to help others and speak up for injustice. “CSW calls upon the Vietnamese authorities to allow [the men] access to legal representation at the trial and to follow due procedure as defined in international law,” said CSW’s advocacy director, Andrew Johnston. “They are facing lengthy sentences for peacefully standing up for the rights of fellow citizens.”
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