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Vietnam Committee denounces prison sentence against blogger and pro-democracy activist Lê Quoc Quan

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PARIS, 2 October 2013 (VIETNAM COMMITTEE) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly condemns the sentence of 30 months in prison and a fine of 1,2 billion dongs (approx. US $60,000) handed down on blogger and pro-democracy activist Lê Quoc Quan at an unfair trial today at the Supreme People’s Court in Hanoi on charges of “tax evasion” (Article 161 of the Criminal Code).

“This unjust sentence has a distinct air of “déjà-vu”” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “In 2008, blogger Dieu Cay (Nguyen Van Hai) also received a 30-month sentence for “tax evasion”. He has never left prison since”. “This spurious sentence proves without doubt that Vietnam is unfit to obtain a seat on the UN Human Rights Council”, he added.

Mr. Ai recalled that Dieu Cay was not released from prison after completing his 30-month sentence in October 2010, but was maintained in detention and charged with a second offense of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. He was condemned to 12 years in prison and 5 years of house arrest at an unfair trial in September 2012.

Mr. Ai also denounced the exorbitant fine imposed by the court, which is a massive sum in a country where the average minimum wage is less than $US 100 per month. Moreover, he deplored the grave discrimination suffered by Lê Quoc Quan during his nine-month detention in Prison No. 1 in Hanoi. Not only did his pre-trial detention exceed the maximum of four months stipulated in Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code, but he was not once allowed to meet his wife or young daughter during his detention.

This sentence is part of an on-going crack-down on freedom of expression, both offline and online. The VCHR has recorded the cases of 51 dissidents arrested in 2013, most of whom are pro-democracy bloggers.

Before his arrest on 27 December 2012, Lê Quoc Quan, a well-known dissident and former lawyer, was the victim of continuous harassments on account of his activities for democracy and human rights. He was beaten with an iron bar by Police-hired thugs outside his home in August 2012, and in October 2012, some 50 Security Police and plain-clothed militia forced entry into the head office of his family firm, the VietNam Credit in Hanoi and its branch office in Saigon, seizing documents and aggressing the staff. Lê Quoc Quan’s brother, Le Quoc Quyet, who is also a blogger, has also suffered repeated beatings and harassments for his pro-human rights activities.

Lê Quoc Quan was previously detained in 2007 on returning from a five-month study in the US on a Reagan-Fascell scholarship funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). After his study he published a report titled ‘Democracy in Vietnam: the role of society’. He was struck off the Bar Association as a result.

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