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Vietnam lawyer arrested on “anti-Socialist propaganda” charges for discussing the Vietnamese Constitution

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PARIS, 17 December 2015 (VCHR) – The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) strongly denounces Vietnam’s arrest of Nguyen Van Dai, human rights lawyer and former political prisoner on 16 December 2015 in Hanoi. He is charged with “spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal Code), a crime punishable by three to twenty years in prison. The arrest was confirmed in a statement on the official website of the Ministry of Public Security on Wednesday. It took place just one day after the EU-Vietnam annual human rights dialogue was held in Hanoi.

“Nguyen Van Dai was arrested because he held a workshop to discuss human rights in the 2013 Vietnamese Constitution” said VCHR President Vo Van Ai. “This shows the total absurdity and double-language of Vietnam’s human rights policies. Studying the Constitution is a crime, and discussing it with others is spreading anti-State propaganda. Hanoi has no right to sit at a table discussing human rights with the EU whilst committing such blatant violations of its citizens’ rights”.

Nguyen Van Dai  
Nguyen Van Dai

Nguyen Van Dai, a Protestant church leader and prominent human rights activist, was first arrested in March 2007 for holding informal human rights workshops at his office in Hanoi. He was sentenced to five years in prison (reduced to four years on appeal) and four years house arrest, also under Article 88 of the Criminal Code. Released in 2011, he continued his human rights advocacy, founding the Brotherhood of Democracy in 2013, and making human rights submissions to bilateral human rights dialogues and UN mechanisms.

Since his release, he has suffered repeated beatings, surveillance, intimidation and harassments by Police and hired thugs. In 2014, he received a head wound that needed four stitches. The door of his home was broken down several times in January and March 2015. Most recently, on 6 December 2015, Nguyen Van Dai and three colleagues were viciously beaten by plain-clothed security agents after they organised the workshop on the Vietnamese Constitution at the home of a colleague in Nghe An province.

“Nguyen Van Dai is a passionate proponent of human rights educaction, and he has paid a very high price for his ideals”, said Vo Van Ai. “Vietnam should immediately and unconditionally set him free”.

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