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Rights groups call for release of Vietnamese lawyer

Ho Chi Minh City (UCAN): International human rights and pro-democracy groups called on the government of Vietnam to release a lawyer and his colleague in the lead up to the Communist Party congress which will run from January 20 to 28.

Nguyen Van Dai, a Hanoi-based lawyer, democracy and human rights advocate, was arrested outside his home on 16 December 2015 while on his way to a meeting with European Union diplomats who had just completed an annual human rights dialogue with the Vietnamese government. His colleague, Le Thu Ha, was arrested at her office on the same day. 

Both were accused of propaganda against the state, which carries a prison term of between three to 20 years. An observer in Ho Chi Minh City said the arrests were made to silence dissidents and human rights advocates in advance of the party congress. 

The vice minister of Information and Communication, Truong Minh Tuan, ordered security officials to search for those he said spread bad and false information on the Internet against the party and government officials.

The January 6 statement, signed by 26 human rights groups based in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the United States of America and Europe, called on the Vietnamese government to “honour its international and domestic obligations” and to release Nguyen and Le “immediately and unconditionally.”

The statement noted that Nguyen “is a well-known peaceful campaigner for a multiparty democracy and the protection of human rights in Vietnam. He has devoted his life to providing legal assistance to the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society.” 

The statement noted that Nguyen has been repeatedly persecuted because of his work, including a four-year jail term followed by four years of house arrest imposed in 2007. At the time of his arrest, he was recovering from injuries sustained in a vicious assault by masked assailants on 6 December 2015.

Fellow advocates believe the attack and subsequent arrest was prompted by Nguyen’s work teaching students the fundamentals of a free society and the rule of law. He also shared his own experiences in advocating democratic values with police and government authorities

Last November, Nguyen said that he accepted the suffering and persecution that came with teaching human rights and democracy values—especially to young people—so that they could change society.

The statement called on the international community “to act and put pressure on the Vietnamese government regarding these cases, which have a severe, chilling effect on freedom of expression in Vietnam.”

 

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