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Nine charged in US for plot to overthrow Laos government

[JURIST] Nine suspects were arrested and charged [press release, PDF] Monday in the US Eastern District of California for allegedly plotting the violent overthrow of the Laotian government. The suspects, including General Vang Pao, a former general in the Royal Lao Army, and Harrison Jack, a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and a retired Lt. Col. of the California National Guard, are accused of violating the Neutrality Act, which prohibits individuals from using the United States as a "safe harbor" to plot the overthrow of a government that is at peace with the United States. The criminal complaint [PDF text] alleges that the defendants sought to acquire "hundreds of AK-47 automatic rifles, Stinger missiles, AT-4 anti-tank missiles" and other munitions to support a "Hmong insurgency." All nine defendants face a maximum of life in imprisonment plus 38 years. Six defendants face an additional minimum sentence of 25 years to life and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for conspiring to "receive and possess the Stinger missiles."

The charges follow a six-month joint investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official websites] and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). The Hmong are an ethnic minority residing in China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. They were heavily recruited by the CIA [CIA backgrounder] during the 1955-1974 "Secret War" to counter the Laotian communist government. AP has more.

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