MPs from 14 Countries Call for Release of Jailed Vietnamese Activists

Latin America Herald Tribune, October 25, 2016

BANGKOK – A total of 73 members of parliament from 14 countries have sent an open letter to Vietnam’s prime minister demanding the release of a lawyer and his assistant arrested over their political activism.

The lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, and his assistant, Le Thu Ha, were arrested in December after being accused of spreading “propaganda against the state,” the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights said in a statement on Tuesday.

APHR said the idea to write to Nguyen Xuan Phuc came from German MP Marie-Luise Dott. The letter was signed by parliamentarians from countries including Cambodia, Chad, Spain, the United States, Indonesia, Lithuania, Nepal, the Netherlands, Portugal and Zimbabwe, as well as representatives of different NGOs.

In the letter, which was sent on Monday, the lawmakers called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of the lawyer and his assistant.

“Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha were providing a valuable public service by defending the rights of their fellow citizens. The charges against them should be dropped and they should be allowed to freely exercise their rights,” said Charles Santiago, an APHR chairperson and member of the Malaysian parliament.

The two activists were arrested on Dec. 16, 2015, one day before a meeting on human rights between the Vietnamese authorities and a delegation from the European Union, which has also called for the release of the pair.

Dai is facing up to 20 years in prison under the controversial Article 88 of the Penal Code of Vietnam, which, according to Amnesty International, is often used for imprisoning peaceful activists.

In 2006, the lawyer founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam and was one of the signatories of an online petition for freedom and democracy in the country, which was supported by thousands of people.

According to human rights groups, there are currently more than 100 political prisoners in Vietnam.