A court in central Vietnam has jailed another member of a democratic group for subverting the communist government. The People's Court in Quang Binh province passed a jail sentence of 12 years on Nguyen Trung Truc, a former spokesman for the Vietnam-based Brotherhood for Democracy
, an independent civil society group promoting human rights and democracy, Quang Binh
newspaper reported on Sept. 12. The newspaper said Truc, 44, who is from the province's Bo Trach district, must go on probation for five years after finishing his jail sentence. It reported that he was prosecuted for "carrying out activities that aim to overthrow the people's administration" under article 79 of the 1999 Penal Code. Truc's son, Nguyen Thanh Tam, was allowed to attend the court. Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, who defended Truc at the three-hour trial, quoted Truc telling the judge that "I am a Vietnamese citizen. I confirm that I do not overthrow anyone. I only support and promote democracy, civil rights and environmental protection in Vietnam until they are exercised best." Brotherhood for Democracy said in a statement that the father of two was active in civil society activities and had offered emergency aid to victims of marine pollution and floods caused by hydroelectric plants. Since his arrest in August 2017, his family has been left destitute. His wife was hospitalized for months and their house collapsed during a tropical storm. Truc was one of nine members of the group who were arrested in a government crackdown from 2015-17. They were sentenced to a total of 90 years in jail. Eight were charged with subversion. Brotherhood for Democracy called on people around the world to support prisoners of conscience and work for human rights to be exercised in Vietnam. Before Truc's trial, Human Rights Watch
urged Vietnam to drop all charges against Truc for "peaceful rights activism" and release him immediately. "Truc is yet another victim of the Vietnamese government's campaign against people who advocate human rights and democracy," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The country is now becoming a giant prison for anyone who speaks up against the government or acts to advance basic rights." Vinh Diocese's committee for justice and peace said on Sept. 6 said that in recent years the government had upped the ante by arresting and passing heavy sentences on activists who peacefully fight for human rights and freedom. "It is horrifying that they are arrested, investigated and tried without explicitness, lawful procedures or persuasive evidence," said committee head Father Anthony Nguyen Van Dinh
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Father Dinh said trials took place in a short time with a lack of independent examination from defendants' relatives and the public. "The rights situation in the country has worsened considerably," he said, adding that in many cases security forces and authorities disrespect the constitution. The priest called on the government to obey Vietnam's laws and international conventions on human rights signed by Vietnam. "Christians have duties and a mandate to speak for and journey with those suffering injustice, especially prisoners of conscience," Father Dinh said.