Afrique Ameriques Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Vietnam 12 February 2007

Pro-democracy lawyer tried by people’s court

The authorities mobilised some 200 residents in the Hanoi district of Bach Khoa on 8 February to act as a “popular court” to try pro-democracy lawyer Nguyen Van Dai on a charge of “betraying his country.”

Dai was not allowed to speak during the two and a half hours that the “trial” last. The “popular court” finally demanded the withdrawal of his licence to practice law and the closure of his law office.

This kind of popular justice is used to publicly humiliate government opponents. District representatives controlled by the police take turns before the court to condemn the dissident’s activities. There is nothing official about the trial or verdict, which serve only to discourage opponents from continuing their activities.

Despite threats and pressure, Dai refused to sign the minutes of the trial drawn up by the court.

Dai and five other dissidents were arrested and questioned by police on 3 and 4 February. Dai regularly posts pro-democracy essays on websites based abroad, and defends imprisoned cyber-dissidents.

5.02.07 Free expression advocate Nguyen Van Dai detained and harassed

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Vietnamese authorities to stop harassing a group of democrats after Nguyen Van Dai, a pro-democracy lawyer who defends imprisoned cyber-dissidents, was detained and questioned by police on 3-4 February at the same time as five other activists.

“The government slightly relaxed its control of the media and the Internet to facilitate Vietnam’s entry into the WTO and to improve its image before last November’s APEC summit, but now that the international pressure has eased, it is trying to stifle the fragile pro-democracy movement,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is vital to support Nguyen Van Dai and his fight for free expression.”

Dai, 38, was arrested at his Hanoi law office along with five other people, including fellow lawyer Le Thi Cong Nha and Bach Ngoc Duong, an engineer. They were all released later the same day or the next day, but the police told them they would be summoned for further interrogation. The authorities accuse the group of forming “an organisation aimed at overthrowing the government.”

Dai regularly posts pro-democracy essays on websites based abroad. Last June, shortly after the 10th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, he wrote an article on the “right to found a party in Vietnam” for the BBC’s Vietnamese-language website. This immediately led to a summons from the police.

Dai was one of the first signatories of the founding document of Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy movement that emerged last April. He is a member of the editorial board of the independent newspaper Tu Do Dân chu (Freedom and Democracy), which was launched last August and which is distributed in the larger cities. He recently spoke out in defence of American cyber-dissident Thanh Cong Do (Nam Tran), who was detained for several days in September.

The authorities are currently harassing all known political dissidents, including Dr. Pham Hong Son, who has been under police surveillance since his release from prison on 30 August.

Create your blog with Reporters without borders:

In this country
20 February - Vietnam
Government frees cyber-dissident while keeping online activities under strict control
19 January - Vietnam
Government announces early release of journalist Nguyen Viet Chien
5 December - Vietnam
Leading blogger’s conviction upheld on appeal
15 October - Vietnam
Newspaper reporter’s two-year sentence deals severe blow to press freedom
10 September - Vietnam
Blogger gets two and a half years in prison after “unfair and unfounded” conviction on tax fraud charge

in the annual report
Vietnam - Annual report 2007
Vietnam - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

Asia archives
2009 archives
2008 archives
2007 archives
2006 archives
2005 archives
2004 archives
2003 archives
2002 archives
2001 archives
2000 archives

Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised