BANGKOK - Vietnamese authorities are expected put two key dissidents on trial over the next week, RFA's Vietnamese service reports. Academic Tran Khue and former Army colonel and military historian Pham Que Duong were arrested more than a year and a half ago for suspected anti-government activities.

Khue will face trial beginning July 9, while proceedings against Duong are expected to begin July 14, sources in Vietnam said.

We just learned the news from our lawyers, Duong's wife, Do Thi Cu, said in an interview. We don't know whether we can or can't attend the trial.

Duong, 72, has been ordered to appear at the Hanoi People's Court on July 14. No details were immediately available about Khue's trial.

Duong was previously charged with espionage and violation of a house arrest order, sources said. But those charges have been dropped and replaced with "abuse of democratic rights with the aim of harming the interest of the State and the rights and interests of its organizations and its citizens".

"I didn't know [about the new charges] until my husband told me so," Cu said.

Duong was taken into custody with his wife and three others on Dec. 28, 2002, at the Ho Chi Minh City train station. They were preparing to return to Hanoi, according to sources in Vietnam and the United States.

They had been visiting Khue, who had been under house arrest for his pro-democracy activities. On Dec. 29, Khue "a specialist in classical Chinese and Vietnamese" was arrested at his Ho Chi Minh City home. Security officers confiscated his computer and two floppy disks.

Duong and Khue had recently emerged as de-facto spokesmen for the dissident movement inside Vietnam, in the North and South of the country, respectively.

Khue has been formally charged with "espionage and violation of a house arrest order," according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Shortly after their arrest, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry said the two men had been "caught red-handed while carrying out activities that seriously violate Vietnamese laws and will be tried in accordance with state laws."

Both Duong and Khue were among 21 signatories, many of them former Communist Party members and military veterans, on a petition sent to Vietnam's parliament on August 2002 calling for democratic reforms and a fight against corruption. #####


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