Prominent Blogger and Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison
PEN International protests the 30-month sentence and heavy fine that blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan received for alleged tax evasion on October 2, 2013. PEN believes the charges to be politically motivated and that he has been penalized for his human rights work, and is therefore calling for his immediate and unconditional release.
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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 (approximately US$59,000) on charges of tax evasion under Article 161 of the Criminal Code. These charges ostensibly concern his alleged evasion of taxes on a consultancy company that he owned, but are widely believed to be politically motivated. Le Quoc Quan denies the charges, arguing that he is being 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, 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?” on the redrafting of Vietnam’s Constitution, in which he expressed concern that the Constitution 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 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 held.
Le Quoc Quan has been the target of previous harassment and arrests. On March 8, 2007, he was detained without trial by the authorities 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 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 rather than being released on completion of his sentence in October 2010, he was charged with a second offense—“propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" under Article 88 of the Criminal Code—and sentenced to 12 years in prison and 5 years of house arrest in September 2012.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the 30-month sentence and heavy fine that blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan received 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 Vietnam
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
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. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case.
**Please check with PEN if sending appeals after November 10, 2013**