Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Trial of dissident Vietnamese blogger Quan postponed indefinitely



Twenty-four hours before it was scheduled, Vietnamese authorities postponed hearings indefinitely in the trial of dissident blogger Le Quoc Quan, reported Radio Free Asia. RFA said that “lawyers and relatives said the hearing was put off to avoid publicity and international attention.”
   
On Tuesday, July 9, one of Vietnam’s best-known human rights defenders blogger Quan (41) was to stand trial for tax evasion at Hanoi People’s Court. His real ‘crime’ was however consistent exposure of human rights abuses, corruption and misdemeanours of the Vietnamese government.

Quan was arrested on December 27, 2012 after the British Broadcasting Corporation published an article by him criticising a constitutional provision that accorded the Communist Party of Vietnam a preeminent position in the country.

The New York-based human rights monitor Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier called for the unconditional release of Quan. In a press statement on July 8, HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams said, “Le Quoc Quan is being put on trial because he is a prominent and effective critic … Instead of addressing popular dissatisfaction with Vietnam’s political system, economic failures, and dire human rights record, the government is simply throwing critics in prison.”

HRW observed that Vietnamese courts lack independence and trials like the one against Quan was “determined by political considerations.” The human rights monitoring body said that in 2008, tax evasion charges were brought to silence another blogger, Nguyen Van Hai. 

The trial is part a new wave of aggression against bloggers and human rights activists. In May and June popular bloggers Truong Duy Nhat and Pham Viet Dao were arrested. Further, Nguyen Phuong Uyen and Dinh Nguyen Kha were sentenced for circulating leaflets critical of the government.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) drew attention to the arrest of blogger Dinh Naht Uyi, reportedly on June 15. CPJ said he is accused of “abusing democratic freedoms” a charge that carries a seven year prison sentence. Vietnam’s state media has accused Uyi of “compiling and publishing distorted and untrue articles and pictures on his blog, tarnishing the prestige of state bodies,” said CPJ.

“These three arrests over the course of a month signal Vietnam's deepening crackdown on online journalists who express dissent,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator.

On March 13, a number of international human rights and pro-democracy organisations called on the UN special mandate holders, “to investigate and intervene in the unlawful arrest and detention of lawyer, blogger and human rights defender Le Quoc Quan. The signatory organisations request the Joint Rapporteurs to declare any continuing detention of Mr. Quan a violation of his human rights.”

Prior to his detention from December last year, Quan was arrested in March 2007 after completing a stint as Reagan Fascell Fellow at Washington DC’s National Endowment for Democracy. He was released without charges after being detained for 100 days. He was arrested again in 2011 and released without charges. In August 2012 he was severely injured in an assault.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) has placed Vietnam 172nd from 179 countries in its 2013 Press Freedom Index.  

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