Saturday, April 07, 2007

Police manhandle dissidents' wives

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Marine and visiting Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez accused Hanoi police of manhandling the wives of two dissidents, who had been invited to tea at the ambassador's residence on Thursday. Marine says he regularly invites female relatives of detained dissidents to tea and informs authorities a week in advance. This time, four accepted his invitation, but only two made it to the embassy, where they were surrounded by about 15 police and shoved around, prevented from entering. One of those turned back was, as Matt Steinglass of VOA reports, Vu Thuy Ha, who "is the wife of dissident Pham Hong Son, who spent four years in prison after he posted articles about democracy on the Internet, and who remains under house arrest." The wife of jailed and ailing writer Nguyen Vu Binh was also forcibly prevented from entering the embassy.

Those invited to tea included the wives of dissidents Nguyen Vu Binh, Le Quoc Quan, Pham Hong Son and Nguyen Van Dai; and the mother of Le Thi Cong Nhan, a Hanoi human rights lawyer. According to Sanchez some of the women were detained and questioned at local police stations when they left their homes Thursday to go to the ambassador's house; and barricades were set up in the streets in front of their houses.

Marine said he pointed out to police "that they were my guests, and that I considered it inappropriate for them to be interfered with." Sanchez said that during a meeting with Marine, herself and Vietnam Deputy PM:

"I suggested that this was not a way a civilized nation treated its people. He said that there were laws in Vietnam, and people who are in jail are because of those laws. I said to him these were not women in jail, these were just the wives of these people."

A Vietnamese foreign ministry spokesperson responded by accusing Sanchez of having shown a "lack of good will" and interfering "deeply in Vietnam's internal affairs." Sanchez, a Democrat from Orange County, California, is a leading critic of Vietnam's human rights policies.

That police would prevent dissidents' wives from meeting with the U.S. ambassador -- even though this event has occurred regularly in the past -- is further evidence of the ongoing political crackdown in Vietnam, which seems intended not only to suppress the voice of dissidents but alsoas a statement of defiance towards the U.S. for its expression of support for the rights of these dissidents.

: Voice of America/Matt Steinglass April 6; Associated Press/Ben Stocking April 6.


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