By Vu Quoc Ngu - Defend the Defenders
August 23, 2016
The Security Investigation Agency under Vietnamís Ministry of Public Security has extended the pre-trial detention for prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai to 12 months, said his lawyer Ha Huy Son.
On Monday [August 22], lawyer Son received a letter from Vietnamís Supreme Peopleís Procuracy, saying he cannot meet his client due to the extension of the investigation period to 12 months from the arrest. Son was told that he can access his client after the investigation was completed in order to ďprotect investigation secrets,Ē the letter said.
Earlier this month, Son sent his letter to the Supreme Peopleís Court to ask for permission to act as Mr. Daiís lawyer. Mr. Dai, together with his assistant Ms. Le Thu Ha, was arrested on December 16 last year and charged with conducting ďanti-state propagandaĒ activities under Article 88 of Vietnamís Penal Code.
If proven guilty, Dai and Ha may face imprisonment up to 20 years.
Since being arrested, Mr. Dai was not allowed to meet with his lawyer nor his family members.
His re-arrest came just few months after his four-year house arrest ended. His detention was condemned by international human rights groups, including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the London-based Amnesty International and the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders and many Western governments.
In January, 26 international organizations issued a joint statement calling for unconditional release of Mr. Dai and Ms. Ha.
Mr. Dai, a lawyer by profession, was arrested in 2007, together with Le Thi Cong Nhan, another prominent dissident, on the charge of conducting anti-state propaganda. He was sentenced to five years in jail and additional four-year house arrest. He was released in 2011 but kept under house arrest until June last year.
After being freed five years ago, Mr. Dai has continued his activities to promote multi-party democracy and human rights in the communist nation. He formed the Brotherhood for Democracy and the Vietnam Center for Human Rights, which have attracted participation of hundreds of young activists nationwide.
Before being re-arrested, Dai had been harassed by police forces who keep constant surveillance on him. He was attacked several times by thugs, most recently in the central province of Nghe An several days before his arrest. About 20 thugs with wooden bars brutally beat Dai and three fellow activists after they attended a meeting with local activists to mark International Human Rights Day [Dec. 10].
The arrest of lawyer Dai is part of an intensified crackdown by Vietnamís communist government against local dissidents and social activists. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, Vietnam is holding 130 political prisoners.