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Vietnam crackdown on pro-democracy activists : Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan arrested in Hanoi

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PARIS, 6th March 2007 (Vietnam Committee) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights is informed that Security forces raided the home of Nguyen Van Dai, a Hanoi-based lawyer and pro-democracy activist this morning and placed him under arrest. His current whereabouts is not yet confirmed, but Hanoi sources believe he is detained at B14 Prison (Thanh Tri province) approx. ten kilometres from Hanoi. He is charged with “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code). Another Hanoi-based lawyer, Ms. Le Thi Cong Nhan, was also arrested today under the same charge. 15 Police officers entered her home at 10.00 am (Vietnam time) and placed her under arrest. The Police warrant condemned them both to 4 months pending investigation. In fact, they risk a much longer detention. Under Vietnam’s Criminal Procedures Code, this 4-month period may be extended four times for national security offenders (i.e. a total of 20 months), after which the People’s Procurator is entitled to apply “other deterrent measures” (Article 120).

“We anticipated this crack-down on dissent after the APEC Summit, once Vietnam had obtained all it wanted from the international community, such as WTO membership and removal from the US State department’s blacklist of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom violations”, declared Mr. Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights. “We did not have to wait long. Today, Vietnam has resorted to its old repressive habits, crushing all peaceful voices of dissent. The arrest of Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and other pro-democracy activists, as well as intensified repression against leaders of 20 Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam all over Vietnam reveal the hypocrisy and double language of the Vietnamese regime”.

Nguyen Van Dai, who founded a “Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam” in November 2006, has recently been summoned repeatedly for Police interrogations because of his pronouncements for human rights and democracy. On February 28th, following pressure from Security Police, the Business Registration Office of Hanoi’s Planning and Investment Bureau issued a “Decision” to withdraw the licence of TNHH, the Translation and Legal Consultation firm in Hanoi of which Nguyen Van Dai is a co-founder and Executive Director. Ms Le Thi Cong Nhan, spokesperson of the unofficial “Progress Party” and also an outspoken proponent of democracy, has also been repeatedly harassed by Security Police.

Article 88 is one of the vaguely-defined, catch-all “national security” offences in Vietnam’s Criminal Code which have incurred widespread international criticism. In July 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Committee denounced these provisions as “incompatible” with international human rights law and demanded their immediate repeal.

Today’s arrests are part of a fierce on-going crack-down. On February 18th, Catholic priest Father Nguyen Van Ly was taken from his residence in Hue to the Ben Cui Parish, 30 kilometres outside the city. He is also charged under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. On 1-2 March, Security Police launched a crack-down against UBCV followers in Binh Thuan Province, arresting monks Thich Thien Tam, head of the local UBCV Provincial Representative Board and Thich Hue Lam, subjecting them to harassments and intensive interrogations and forcing them to renounce the outlawed UBCV.

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