Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have been on hunger strike since their arrest on 6 March. At the same
time, Dai’s wife has not been allowed to visit him on the grounds that an investigation is still under way.
Two lawyers and cyber-dissidents arrested for "hostile propaganda"
Reporters Without Borders today urged Hanoi-based diplomats to seek the release of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, both lawyers and cyber-dissidents, who were arrested at their homes this morning. Like Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest and dissident who has been under house arrest since 19 February, they are accused of "hostile propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam."
"We are very worried about these three dissidents and, in general, about all the pro-democracy activists who signed the ’Bloc 8406’ petition in their real names," the press freedom organisation said. "Vietnam made a big effort to appear acceptable while negotiating its admittance to the World Trade Organisation and preparing the APEC summit, but now that is over, it is trying to stifle the pro-democracy movement that Nguyen Van Dai represents."
Dai and Nhan could be held in pretrial custody for four months after being accused of "hostile propaganda" under article 88 if the criminal code.
One of the leaders of Vietnam’s pro-democracy movement and a staunch human rights activist, 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.
The authorities mobilised some 200 residents in the Hanoi district of Bach Khoa on 8 February to act as a "popular court" to try him on a charge of "treason." Although this kind of court does not have the power to hand down prison sentences, it is used by the government to intimidate dissidents.
Shortly before his arrest, Dai began a blog on the Reporters Without Borders blog platform (www.rsfblog.org). He posted his essay on political parties there, as well as photos of his trip to the United States last year, when he met with State Department officials.
Father Ly was on hunger strike from 24 February to 5 March, after he was transferred to the Ben Cui parish building in Phong Xuan, a town some distance from the central city of Hue, where he lives and helps to edit the independent magazine, Tu do Ngôn luan.
He is being guarded by about 20 policemen and is forbidden to leave the parish building. He is not allowed to go to church, cannot receive visits from friends and was reportedly manhandled by some of the policemen on 26 February. Reporters Without Borders calls on the authorities to permit Ly to return to Hue as soon as possible and to allow him to leave his home.
Vietnam is on the Reporters Without Borders list of 13 Internet Enemies. Four other cyber-dissidents - Truong Quoc Huy, Le Nguyen Sang ("Nguyen Hoang Long), Huynh Nguyen Dao ("Huynh Viet Lang") and Nguyen Vu Binh - are currently detained.