BANGKOK-Another veteran critic of the Vietnamese government, Nguyen Dan Que, is to go on trial next week for opposing the regime, RFA's Vietnamese service reports, 16 months after his arrest.

A Vietnamese official who asked not be named told RFA Que is charged with abusing democracy, contacting exiled Vietnamese organisations that oppose Hanoi, and violating a house arrest order. His trial is scheduled for Monday, July 19, sources said.

Que was detained March 17, 2003, after releasing a statement denouncing Vietnam's heavy-handed curbs on the media.

Que was initially held incommunicado and only in recent months has his wife been allowed to meet him in prison. He is in poor health and is suffering from kidney stones, a bleeding ulcer, and high blood pressure that requires medication, Amnesty International said in a statement.

"Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, a winner of numerous international human rights awards, has worked tirelessly to defend the fundamental human rights of his fellow Vietnamese. His repeated imprisonment is both a personal and national tragedy," Amnesty International added.

Que has previously been imprisoned twice, for a total of 18 years. In February 1978, he was arrested and accused of "rebelling against the regime" and forming a "reactionary organization named the National Front of Progress." He was released in 1988 after 10 years in jail without trial.

He was arrested again in June 1990 after founding a new pro-democracy group. He was sentenced in November 1991 to 20 years' imprisonment for "activities aimed at overthrowing the People's Government." He was released under a special amnesty in September 1998.

Over the last week, Vietnam has tried and sentenced two other veteran dissidents.

Former colonel and historian Pham Que Duong, 73, was convicted of "abusing his democratic rights and harming the interests of the state, social organizations, and citizens." He will be freed in two weeks' time because of time served since his December 2002 arrest.

His conviction came five days after Tran Khue, a literature professor and cyber-dissident, was convicted of similar charges and received the same sentence from a Ho Chi Minh City court.

They tried unsuccessfully to organize an anti-corruption organization in September 2001, when they also called on the National Assembly to implement democratic reforms. #####


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