Thursday, April 19, 2007

Lawyers face trial next month

Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai (age 38) and Le Thi Cong Nhan (age 27) are to be tried on May 11, a source told Agence France Presse. A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, however, that he had "no further information about the exact date of the trial."

The two, who were arrested March 6, are to be charged with "defaming" and "propagandizing against" the state, apparently under Article 88 of Vietnam's Criminal Code, which carries penalties up to 20 years imprisonment for this offense.

Nguyen Van Dai's wife Khanh told AFP that she has not been informed of the date of his trial. She has also not been allowed to visit him, has had both her home and cell phone services cut, and has been subjected to a police campaign to incite neighbors against her. She has written several letters asking permission to visit him and that he be allowed legal representation but so far has received no reply. Lawyer Tran Lam (age 80) of Haiphong has volunteered to represent Dai, but has not been allowed to contact him.

A report from yesterday shed further light on the situation and background of Dai and Nhan. It mentioned March 14 and 17 articles in An Ninh The Gioi (World Security), the official organ of the Public Security Ministry. Among other things, it accused Dai of having received a U.S. State Department scholarship to study in the U.S.; later helping to study Internet and computer security in the Philippines; distributing documents alleging religious repression to Vietnam's enemies abroad; getting money from counter-revolutionaries abroad; stealing $80,000 from the Evangelical Church of Vietnam to which he belongs (ECVN leaders told Compass that they were not aware of such money). It also says he was removed from the ECVN legal committee because the church leaders feared his involvement on human rights would "damage the reputation of the church." Nhan is accused of aiding the establishment of an independent trade union; and with Dai of fraternizing with other dissidents in the country and with anti-communist overseas Vietnamese; and of teaching students and other lawyers the "value of Western human rights."

Compass mentions that Dai was approached in 1999 by the Vietnamese Assemblies of God to represent arrested house church leader Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thuy in Vinh Phu province. Although the appeal was unsucessful, Dai became a Christian through contacts he had developed during this time. He went on to gain further notoriety by representing six Mennonites in 2004 and 2005. Although this case was also lost, two of the defendants were released before the end of their prison sentences due to strong international protest.

Nhan was recruited by Dai into his law firm and became a Christian in 2006. She was to be baptized this last Easter.

Sources: Agence France Presse, April 19;, April 18. See also my earlier March 6 and March 20 entries on Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan.


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