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story.lead_photo.caption Activist Le Dinh Luong (center) stands for sentencing Thursday in the central province of Nghe An, Vietnam.

Vietnam gives activist 20 years in prison

HANOI, Vietnam -- A court in central Vietnam sentenced an activist to 20 years in prison Thursday after finding him guilty of attempting to overthrow the Communist government, his lawyer said, in a case decried by international rights groups.

The court also sentenced Le Dinh Luong, 53, to five years of house arrest, said his lawyer Ha Huy Son. Son said Luong was convicted of encouraging others to join the Viet Tan group in exile in the United States. Vietnam brands the group a terrorist organization.

"I think the sentence against Mr. Luong is too harsh," Son said after the half-day trial in Nghe An province.

Despite sweeping economic reforms over the past 30 years that opened Vietnam to international trade and investment that made it one of the fasting growing economies in the world, Vietnam tolerates no challenge to its one-party rule. Luong's sentence was the toughest in years for national security crimes.

The online version of Nghe An's newspaper reported that Luong was a "particularly dangerous" member of Viet Tan and that he had called on people to boycott National Assembly elections in 2016.

Luong had also participated in and instigated others to join protests against environmental pollution by a steel complex owned by Taiwan's Formosa Plastic Group in several central provinces in 2016.

The pollution, released in one of Vietnam's worst environmental disasters, killed tons of fish along 124 miles of coastline in four central provinces and caused big losses for the region's fishing and tourism industries.

International human-rights groups called for Luong's immediate release.

"The government should understand that locking people up for simply exercising their rights isn't working, and more activists will continue to step forward to speak their mind and hold protests against government injustices," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Thursday.

Downed 45 drones in Syria, Russia says

HEMEIMEEM AIR BASE, Syria -- Russian air defense assets in Syria have downed 45 drones targeting their main base in the country, its military said Thursday, after an attack by the Islamic State group on a Syrian army base a day earlier killed seven troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said five of them were shot down in the past three days near the Hemeimeem air base. The base in the province of Latakia serves as the main hub for Russian operations in Syria.

Konashenkov said that while the drones appear primitive, they use sophisticated technologies and have a range of up to 60 miles. He claimed that the militants wouldn't have been able to assemble the drones without outside help, but didn't specify who might have assisted them.

The Russian general noted that the number of drone attacks has increased recently, adding that all of them were launched by militants based in the northern province of Idlib.

Idlib has become the main base for President Bashar Assad's foes, which moved there after being forced out of other areas across Syria as part of surrender deals often negotiated with the Russians on behalf of the Syrian government.

Libya sentences 45 to die for '11 revolt

BENGHAZI, Libya -- A Libyan court has sentenced 45 people to death by firing squad over killings during the 2011 uprising that sparked a civil war.

The conflict toppled and later killed the country's longtime dictator, Moammar Gadhafi.

Wednesday's statement by the Justice Ministry says another 54 suspects in the case were sentenced to five years in prison while 22 people were acquitted.

The case dates back to August 2011 when Gadhafi's supporters and opponents clashed in the capital, Tripoli.

The ministry's media office said the defendants have been held in custody since 2011. The verdicts were handed down in the presence of the defendants' lawyers and families but the defendants were not in the courtroom.

Libya descended into chaos after 2011 and is now split between rival governments, each backed by militias.

Would-be bomber sentenced in U.K.

LONDON -- A Scottish man with far-right views has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for attempting to build a bomb that prosecutors say could have caused carnage.

A search of Peter Morgan's home found explosive substances, propellants, fireworks and a bottle with ball bearings and nail-gun cartridges attached, as well as neo-Nazi paraphernalia.

Morgan was convicted last month of terrorism and explosives offenses.

Judge Colin Boyd said Thursday that jurors had rejected Morgan's claim that he only planned to blow up a frozen turkey and post it on YouTube.

The judge said that "however abhorrent some may find your views, you are entitled to hold them. What you are not entitled to do is to act on these views for the purpose of committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

A Section on 08/17/2018

Print Headline: Downed 45 drones in Syria, Russia says Vietnam gives activist 20 years in prison 45 to die for '11 revolt, Libya court rules Would-be bomber sentenced in U.K.

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