Home Page > News Item > VIET NAM: Prominent blogger and human rights lawyer sentenced to 30 months in prison

RAN 36/12 10 October 2013

PEN International protests the 30-month sentence and heavy fine handed down to blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan for alleged tax evasion on 2 October 2013. PEN believes the charges to be politically motivated and that he has been penalized for his human rights work. It is therefore calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

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Please send appeals:

• Protesting the 30-month sentence and heavy fine handed down to blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan for alleged tax evasion on 2 October 2013;
• Stating that you believe the charges to be politically motivated and intended to prevent him continuing his legitimate human rights activities and from exercising his right to freedom of expression;
• Calling for his immediate and unconditional release;
• Seeking assurances that, while he remains imprisoned, Le Quoc Quan receives adequate medical treatment.

Appeals to:

His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic of
Viet Nam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam

Mr NGUYEN TAN DUNG
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam

Mr PHAN BINH MINH
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam steet
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Viet Nam

Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Viet Nam in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Viet Nam to intervene in the case.

For some Vietnamese embassies in the world: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Vietnam

**Please check with this office if sending appeals after 10 November 2013**

On 2 October 2013, Le Quoc Quan, a 41-year-old prominent blogger, human rights lawyer who has called for greater democracy in Viet Nam, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a fine of 1.2 billion dongs (approx. US$ 59,000) on charges of tax evasion under Article 161 of the Criminal Code. The charges related to the alleged evasion of tax equivalent to approximately US$30,000 in relation to a consultancy company which he owned, but are widely believed to be politically motivated. Le Quoc Quan denies the charges, arguing that he is targeted for his human rights activism. While the trial was declared open to the public by the authorities, it remained under strict control and is believed to have fallen short of international fair trial standards. Few international observers were granted access to an adjacent room to watch the trial, and they reported that the closed circuit feed was frequently cut off during the course of the one-day trial. Following his conviction, Le Quoc Quan was imprisoned in Hanoi detention camp No1, Tu Liem district, Hanoi.

Le Quoc Quan is believed to have been targeted for his blog (http://lequocquan.blogspot.co.uk), in which he exposed human rights abuses and other issues not covered by the state-controlled media. Nine days before his arrest on 27 December 2012, Le Quoc Quan wrote a critical article entitled “Constitution or a contract for electricity and water service?” on the re-drafting of Vietnam’s Constitution, in which he expressed concern that it should not be used as a political vehicle for the ruling party. In addition he called for its careful revision, arguing that it should provide the foundations for democracy. The article was originally published on the BBC’s Vietnamese website. Le Quoc Quan’s pre-trial detention exceeded the maximum four months stipulated by the Vietnamese Criminal Procedures Code, during which time he was reportedly prohibited from seeing his family.

Le Quoc Quan is reported to be in ill-health following two hunger-strikes. Concerns for his well-being are heightened owing to the reported cramped and unsanitary conditions in the Hanoi detention camp where he is currently held.

Background
Le Quoc Quan has been the target of previous harassment and arrests. On 8 March 2007 he was detained without trial by the authorities for 100 days upon his return from a US government-funded fellowship in Washington where he published a report entitled, Democracy in Vietnam: the role of society. He was charged with carrying out activities to overthrow the government under Article 79 of the Penal Code, and released on 16 June 2007. Le Quoc Quan was reportedly arrested again on unknown charges on 4 April 2011 as he attempted to approach the People’s Court of Hanoi where the trial of legal activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was taking place. In August 2012 he was reportedly attacked by men he believed were state agents, and in October of the same year he reported receiving threats from the authorities.

PEN International is currently monitoring at least 40 cases of writers, journalists and bloggers serving sentences ranging from two to 16 years for their peaceful activism and critical writings. According to PEN’s records, the number of writers arbitrarily detained in Vietnam has more than tripled since 2009. There are similarities between Le Quoc Quan’s case and that of independent journalist and blogger Nguyen Van Hai (also known as Dieu Cay), who served a 30-month sentence for alleged tax fraud but instead of being released on completion of his sentence in October 2010 he was subsequently charged with a second offence of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced to 12 years in prison and five years in house arrest in September 2012. (See previous RANs: 47/08 Update #1, 36/12 and 27/13).

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@pen-international.org.uk

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