HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnamese police have arrested a lawyer who defended pro-democracy activists, accusing him of working with “hostile” outside forces to sabotage the state and slandering leaders including the country’s prime minister.
Le Cong Dinh was “colluding with domestic and foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese State”, the state-run Voice of Vietnam reported. Several other state-controlled news outlets in the Communist country also reported the arrest.
The General Department of Security was quoted as saying the Ho Chi Minh City-based lawyer had been arrested on Saturday under article 88 of the penal code, which bans the distribution of propaganda against the state.
Dinh had written and published on overseas web sites several articles that were designed to distort and damage socio-economic policies and libel key leaders, including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the newspaper Thanh Nien said in a report on its Web site (www.thanhnien.com.vn) on Sunday.
In 2007, Dinh defended two other prominent human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, who were jailed on similar charges of “spreading propaganda against the state”. Dinh also worked with Nguyen Quoc Quan, a U.S. citizen of Vietnamese origin who had planned to distribute pro-democracy literature.
Thanh Nien reported that Dinh had used the opportunity of defending those people to “damage and distort the constitution and other laws of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”.
Dai and Nhan had advocated a multiparty system and gave legal advice to people who said authorities prevented them from practicing religion. The government has said they broke the law and were not convicted for their political views. Quan was deported to America after several months in detention.
A brief bio of Dinh on Thanh Nien’s Web site said he worked for the law firm Coudert Brothers for four years in the mid- to late-1990s, and then two years studying law in the United States.
Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani