Blogger and Human Rights Lawyer Le Quoc Quan’s Appeal to Be Heard
PEN urges its members to send renewed letters calling for the immediate and unconditional release of blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan, whose appeal is due to be heard on February 12, 2014. Le Quoc Quan was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a heavy fine for alleged tax evasion on October 2, 2013. PEN believes the charges to be politically motivated, and that Le Quoc Quan is being penalized for his human rights work.
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On October 2, 2013, Le Quoc Quan, a 41-year-old prominent blogger and human rights lawyer who has called for greater democracy in Vietnam, 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 alleged evasion of taxes totaling approximately US$30,000 by a consulting company that he owned. Le Quoc Quan denies the charges, which PEN believes are politically motivated, arguing that he is being targeted for his human rights activism. While authorities declared that the trial was open to the public, 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, in which he exposed human rights abuses and other issues not covered by the state-controlled media. Nine days before his arrest on December 27, 2012, Le Quoc Quan wrote a critical article entitled “Constitution or a contract for electricity and water service?” about 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. He also 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 poor health following two hunger strikes. Concerns for his well-being are heightened due to the reported cramped and unsanitary conditions in the Hanoi detention camp where he is currently being held.
Le Quoc Quan has been the target of previous harassment and arrests. On March 8, 2007, he was detained without trial for 100 days upon his return from a U.S. government-funded fellowship in Washington, where he had 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 June 16, 2007. Le Quoc Quan was reportedly arrested again on unknown charges on April 4, 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 is currently monitoring over 40 cases of writers, journalists, and bloggers serving sentences ranging from two to sixteen 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. Instead of being released on completion of his sentence in October 2010, Nguyen Van Hai was charged with a second offense 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 of house arrest in September 2012.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the 30-month sentence and heavy fine handed down to blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan for alleged tax evasion on October 2, 2013;
- Stating that you believe the charges to be politically motivated and intended to prevent him from 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.
Send Your Letter To
His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic of
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Mr Nguyen Tan Dung
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Mr Phan Binh Minh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam steet
Ba Dinh district
Fax: +844 3823 1872
Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals.
**Please check with PEN if sending appeals after February 28, 2014**