News / Asia

Rights Groups Press for Release of Leading Vietnam Dissident

A U.S-trained lawyer and well-known dissident Le Quoc Quan (r) listens to the judge during his trial in Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 2, 2013.
A U.S-trained lawyer and well-known dissident Le Quoc Quan (r) listens to the judge during his trial in Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 2, 2013.
A coalition of human rights organizations have issued an open letter calling for the release of prominent Vietnamese blogger, lawyer and human rights activist, Le Quoc Quan.

In an interview with VOA's Vietnamese service, Benjamin Ismail, the head of the Asia-Pacific Desk at Reporters Without Borders, said his organization together with 11 other international rights groups petitioned for Quan’s acquittal based on International Human Rights standards, and the Rule of Law.

"Le Quoc Quan is a special case because he is not only a blogger and a citizen jailed for using his fundamental and basic rights. But he is also a lawyer.  Someone who knows the law," he said. "And if lawyers can see their own rights denied by the regime, it means the rest of the population is even more vulnerable to human rights violations."

Ismail expressed the decision on Quan’s appeal would signal to the international community whether Vietnam respects international human rights law, especially significant in Vietnam’s role as a recently elected member to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The 12 NGO signatories of the letter calling for Quan's release are the Media Legal Defence Initiative, Media Defence-Southeast Asia, Lawyers for Lawyers, Avocats Sans Frontières, Front Line Defenders, Access, English PEN, Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada.

Quan’s brother, Le Quoc Quyet told VOA's Vietnamese Service that his brother has filed a complaint against Judge Le Thi Hop, who sentenced him in October to 30 months in prison for tax evasion.

"Quan said it was against the law when the judge saw no sign of law violations but still convicted him.  Secondly, the judge did not convene all the witnesses.  Thirdly, the examiners involved in the investigation process did not have certified licenses," he said. "Moreover, the judge ignored all the evidence provided by Quan’s defense lawyers at the initial trial."

The call for Quan's release comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to visit Vietnam this week for talks on trade and other bilateral issues.

But a bipartisan group of 47 U.S. Congressmen are sent a letter to Kerry this week calling on him to to tell Vietnam's leaders that trade agreements will only follow human rights improvements by the government in Hanoi.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez says Vietnam has unfairly imprisoned activists like Quan.

"We believe there needs to be a change. That overall, Vietnam's human rights record remains very poor. And that, in particular in the last few years, they have tightened controls on freedom of expression and freedom of association, freedom of assembly," she said. "They have got new decrees out which have prohibited peaceful protests, limited speech on the Internet. We need to see that stop."

Kerry is expected to arrive in Vietnam later this week with a stop in Ho Chi Minh City, followed by a visit to Hanoi.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese Service

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