Vietnam’s communist government intensified its recent crackdown over the weekend with the arrest of four dissidents accused of trying to overthrow the one-party state’s leadership.
The latest arrests come amid a wave of repression targeting activists, bloggers and rights lawyers following a change in leadership last year, Agence France-Presse reports.
The four detainees — prominent dissidents Pham Van Troi and Nguyen Bac Truyen, writer Truong Minh Duc and Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton — were apprehended at their homes Sunday, AFP reports citing their respective wives.
While all had previously been convicted and jailed over anti-state charges, they now stand accused of attempting to “overthrow the people’s administration,” a much more serious charge that can sometimes carry the death penalty.
According to AFP, the same charge is hanging over two other detainees — a lawyer and an activist — who have connections to the four arrested over the weekend.
“Voicing support for the people cannot be called trying to overthrow the administration,” Ton’s wife told AFP. She said her husband was recovering from an earlier assault by plainclothes police at the time of his arrest.
According to Amnesty International, over the past two years Vietnam has placed “severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly,” while “peaceful criticism of government policies continued to be silenced through judicial and extra-legal means.”
“More cases of government thugs beating up dissidents, longer and longer jail sentences, and now, more arrests,” Human Rights Watch’s John Sifton told AFP, calling 2017 a “terrible year” for Vietnam’s human rights record.