Detained Vietnamese activist denied access to lawyer

Phan Tat Thanh is accused of spreading anti-state propaganda on Facebook.


RFA | 2024.03.21

A Vietnamese activist, accused of “propaganda against the State” is being denied access to a lawyer, his family told Radio Free Asia.

Phan Tat Thanh, 38, has been detained since July 2023, charged under Article 117 of the criminal code.

Prosecutors say he used three Facebook accounts to post and distribute content, “propagating information and documents with distorted content, causing confusion among the people, and fabricating and defaming the Communist Party of Vietnam.”

Thanh’s family have been able to meet him twice at a police detention center in Ho Chi Minh City, the first time on Feb. 16, 2024, and the second time on March 15.

Thanh told them that after a detention order expired police investigators issued a second order which lasted until Feb. 7.

Even though the police finished their investigation and transferred the case file to the City Procuracy, Thanh said he had not been allowed to meet the lawyer – Tran Dinh Dung – his family hired for him.

“Lawyer Dung went through all the procedures to request access to the files and contact Thanh. He doesn’t understand why the Procuracy and Security Investigation Department were completely silent and did not respond to him,” Thanh’s father Phan Tat Chi said on Wednesday.

The law states that defense lawyers should be allowed to participate in legal proceedings after the investigation has finished, even in cases relating to alleged violations of national security.

It also stipulates that lawyers are allowed to access documents related to the defense after the end of the investigation in order to take notes and make copies.

Ha Huy Son of the Hanoi Bar Association told RFA lawyers can file a complaint, asking the Procuracy to explain the reason for not allowing the lawyer to contact the client, and can use this to prove prosecutors failed to follow the correct procedures.

Thanh told his father investigators couldn’t find any evidence to convict him and didn’t appear to have any documents to support their case.

He also said he had been beaten by many of the policemen at the detention center.

RFA called the Ho Chi Minh City Procuracy to ask about Mr. Thanh’s case. The person on the phone said the reporter needed to come to the agency, or send a text in order to receive a reply.

Phan Tat Thanh is one of six Facebookers arrested on charges of “anti-state propaganda” last year.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.




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