The state-run Viet Nam News said Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security had "arrested or summoned" a total of 27 people in the case.

Five have already been charged and placed in detention. The newspaper did not specify how many people would eventually be tried, or when charges would be brought.

The five detainees are high-profile US-trained lawyer Le Cong Dinh; youth activist and blogger Nguyen Tien Trung; Tranh Huynh Duy Thuc, head of an internet services company; Le Thanh Long, head of the software development firm Innotech; and Tran Anh Kim, general secretary of the dissident Vietnam Democratic Party.

They have been accused of working with the Vietnam Democratic Party and of posting articles critical of Vietnam's leadership and policies on online blogs. They have also been accused of maintaining contact with Vietnamese exile pro-democracy groups based in foreign countries, and several allegedly attended a workshop on non-violent political mobilization in Thailand in March.

In a special program on Wednesday, Vietnam Television aired video clips of the five jailed activists confessing to attempting to undermine and overthrow the Vietnamese state, and asking for tolerance.

Human rights groups say such political confessions are almost always obtained under duress. Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and other groups have called for several of the activists to be released.

In June, the US State Department called for Dinh's release, but in a press conference Wednesday, US Senator Jim Webb, currently visiting Vietnam, said he did not plan to raise the issue of jailed political detainees with the Vietnamese government.

The activists are being charged under Article 88 of Vietnam's Penal Code, which criminalises "conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam."

Deutsche Presse Agentur - August 21, 2009