Vietnam urged to release Christian lawyer
Nguyen Van Dai is one of many rights and democracy activists imprisoned by communist authorities
December 21, 2016
The plight of a detained Christian human rights lawyer in Vietnam has been highlighted by international NGOs amidst a broader crackdown by communist authorities against rights and democracy activists.
A coalition of seven rights organizations, including Reporters Sans Frontieres and Lawyers for Lawyers, stated that lawyer Nguyen Van Dai must be released immediately in a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Dec. 16.
In the petition, the coalition said Vietnamese authorities must restore Dai's political and civil rights, including his ability to practice law.
"Vietnamese authorities continue to remain silent regarding the investigation process, with no sign of his trial," said the petition. "Furthermore, neither his wife nor his lawyers have been granted visitation rights."
Dai, 46, was arrested on Dec. 16, 2015 after he held a talk on Vietnam's Constitution and human rights with 70 people at a former political prisoner's home in Nghe An province, northern Vietnam. After the talk, Dai was physically attacked by several unidentified assailants.
He was later charged with "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code.
Dai's colleague Le Thu Ha was also arrested at the same time under the same charge and has been held incommunicado.
Dai was a co-founder of the Vietnam Human Rights Committee which aims to promote education on civil and legal rights, and of the Brotherhood for Democracy to support civic mobilization.
He had earlier been imprisoned for four years for propaganda against the state and was freed in 2011.
Larger crackdown on bloggers and activists
The NGOs' petition to the U.N. body said the Vietnamese government detained Dai amidst a larger crackdown on bloggers and activists for expressing their political views. Many activists detained recently have also been charged with propagating "propaganda."
On Dec. 16, a court in northern Thai Binh province convicted activists Tran Anh Kim and Le Thanh Tung of attempting to overthrow the government by "setting up a democratic force for revolution."
Kim, a 67-year-old former soldier, was sentenced to 13 years while Tung, 48, was handed 12.
The two men are former prisoners of conscience who were released in 2015 and re-arrested later the same year in connection with plans to launch a new pro-democracy group called "Raising the flag of democracy."
Also on Dec. 16, state media reported that public security officers in Thanh Hoa City arrested Nguyen Danh Dung for posting videos with "content smearing and defaming leaders of the Party and state."
Dung, 29, was accused of posting on the internet over 700 video clips attracting millions of views.
If convicted, Dung will face imprisonment of between two and seven years, according to Vietnam's laws.
Church sources said last week the government also took away Truong Minh Duc, a Catholic reporter and former prisoner of conscience, from his house. His whereabouts remain unknown.
Sources said security officers in Ho Chi Minh City and the provinces of Nghe An and Thua Thien Hue have summoned several Facebook users and bloggers for posting or sharing articles and videos criticizing bribery and corruption among government officials whose poor management is causing severe environmental pollution throughout the country.
Amnesty International says there are approximately 88 prisoners of conscience held in Vietnam's jails, although the number may be higher. The rights group says that they are at risk of torture and other ill treatment.