Vietnam detains dissident lawyer and blogger
Agence France-Presse in Hanoi
A prominent dissident lawyer was detained on Thursday by Vietnamese police while dropping off his daughter at school, his brother said.
Le Quoc Quan, who blogs on a range of sensitive topics including civil rights, political pluralism and religious freedom, was taken away by police in Hanoi on Thursday morning, his brother Le Quoc Quyet said.
“Many police took him when he dropped his daughter off at school. They also searched his office and took documents, and searched his home also,” he said by telephone.
“He was arrested because of his political views,” Quyet said, adding that police had told the family he was to be charged under article 161, which covers tax evasion.
There was no immediate comment from Vietnamese authorities.
Allegations of tax dodging have previously been levelled at activists.
High-profile dissident blogger Nguyen Van Hai, alias Dieu Cay, was initially jailed for tax evasion but then sentenced in September to 12 years in jail for spreading anti-state propaganda.
A court in southern Ho Chi Minh City is expected to hear his appeal on Friday, along with those of two other bloggers who were also handed lengthy prison terms on the same charges.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung this week restated the government’s commitment to crack down on online dissent, ordering authorities to fight against anyone using the internet to “defame and spread propaganda against the party and state”.
Vietnamese lawyers, bloggers and activists are regularly subject to arbitrary arrest and detention, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch, which has said Quan is being targeted for his work.
Quan, a Catholic in the majority Buddhist nation, was jailed for three months in 2007 for participating in “activities to overthrow the people’s government”, but he was released following protests from the United States.
In August this year Quan was beaten by police in an attack which prompted Human Rights Watch to call for a full investigation.
In early December Quan said his family was under “much pressure... It is terrible”, with both his brother and a female cousin being held in detention.
In addition to his blogs, Quan was heavily involved in a string of anti-China demonstrations last year over Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.