Reporters Without Borders today called on Vietnam to immediately release the lawyer Le Cong Dinh, author of many pro-democracy articles and a known human rights activist, who was arrested two days ago.
The 41-year-old lawyer, who has defended several bloggers and free expression activists, is facing a long prison sentence for his articles and commentaries in the Vietnamese press and online.
He was arrested on 13 June 2009 for allegedly “plotting to overthrow the government”, according to Vietnamese journalists who spoke to Reporters Without Borders. Le has no political affiliation but writes regularly about human rights.
The police told the press that he would be charged under Article 88 of the criminal law that punishes the distribution of news and information hostile to the state. The lawyer is charged with using the trials of some of his clients to damage the state and to have “colluded with foreign-based and internal reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese state”.
Deputy director general of the public security department, Vu Hai Trieu, said he had collected “a lot documents and evidence showing attempts to overthrow the Vietnamese state”.
Several sources said his arrest could be linked to a complaint laid by several Vietnamese lawyers against the head of government Nguyen Tan Dung about the granting of a bauxite mine concession to a Chinese company, a case which has caused an outcry in Vietnam.
“In a state which applies the rule of law, a lawyer defending his clients has the right to make facts public before a court and in the press. We fear that this arrest is aimed at punishing a respected man who promotes the cause of the rule of law in Vietnam”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“After intimidating journalists working for the liberal press and the Catholics, the government is now attacking lawyers, the final bulwark in the defence of freedoms,” it said.
Le Cong Dinh has defended lawyers and bloggers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, and the renowned blogger Dieu Cay.