Human rights lawyers and cyber-dissidents Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were arrested at their Hanoi homes on 6 March 2007 on charges of “hostile propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”
One of the leaders of Vietnam’s pro-democracy movement, a signatory of the “Bloc 8406" appeal and a determined human rights advocate, Nguyen Van Dai often posted essays on websites based abroad. In June 2006, 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.
In an attempt to intimidate him, the authorities mobilised some 200 residents in the Hanoi district of Bach Khoa in February 2007 to act as a “popular court” to try him on a charge of “treason.” The “court” recommended that he should be forbidden to practise law and that his law office should be closed.
Shortly before his arrest, he started a blog (http://nguyenvandai.rsfblog.org/) on the Reporters Without Borders blog platform (www.rsfblog.org), where he posted an essay on political parties and photos of a trip he made to the United States in 2006, during which he met State Department officials.
When the March 2007 arrests of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were widely criticised abroad, the police ordered their families to stop talking to the foreign news media.
A Hanoi people’s court convicted Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan of “propaganda against the government” on 11 May 2007. The trial judge said they hade “seriously violated Vietnam’s constitution and laws by denigrating the Communist Party’s role” and “misrepresented the situation of democracy and human rights in Vietnam.” Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to five years in prison under article 88 of the criminal code. Le Thi Cong Nhan got four years. At an appeal hearing on 27 November 2007, their jail terms were reduced to four and three years respectively, to be followed on their release by four and three years respectively of house arrest.