Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security police arrested Le Cong Dinh last weekend in Ho Chi Minh City for participating in subversive activities. Dinh is a prominent pro-democracy lawyer, human rights advocate and writer. Several media groups and local scholars have condemned Dinh’s arrest.
Dinh is charged with violating Article 88 of the Vietnamese criminal code which bans the distribution of anti-state propaganda. Dinh is accused of “colluding with domestic and foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese state.” If found guilty, Dinh could be jailed for three to 20 years depending on the gravity of the offense.
Who is Le Cong Dinh? A brief profile of his human rights advocacy background:
(Dinh), who has a law degree from the US’s Tulane University, was close to several of the dissidents who formed a pro-democracy movement in 2006 known as Bloc 8406. He served as a defense lawyer at the trial of human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan in May 2007, where they were sentenced to prison for “disseminating propaganda that was harmful to the State.”
Amnesty International criticizes the Vietnamese government for stifling freedom of expression:
“The arrest appears to be yet another indication of Viet Nam's determination to stifle freedom of expression, and silence anyone who criticizes the government or holds different views.”
Amnesty International added that at least 30 dissidents have been sentenced to long prison terms since 2006 for being involved with pro-democracy activities and human rights issues.
Southeast Asian Press Alliance analyzes the political implication of Dinh’s arrest
Given his reputation and experience as a defender of other writers and advocates of human rights and democracy in Vietnam, Mr. Dinh's arrest is a simultaneous attack on two sectors vital to democratic reform in Vietnam or any society. It sends a chilling message not only to other writers and citizens who peacefully advocate for change, but also to those in the legal community who would defend the Vietnamese people's right to free expression.
Dinh has reportedly confessed to authorities that he had indeed participated in several activities that violated Vietnamese laws. He has allegedly asked for clemency from the state, according to the same news report.
There is an online petition urging Vietnam to immediately release Dinh “since his arrest is a huge blow to democracy and human rights.” The campaign also encourages everyone to write and send letters to Vietnamese embassies around the world to show support for Dinh.
The Free Le Cong Dinh blog was also set-up to provide the latest information about Dinh’s case.