Hanoi (AsiaNews) - " At least 29 Catholics were arrested at 8 AM on Monday morning when they were on their way to the court-house to observe the proceedings,” against lawyer and activist Cu Huy Ha Vu, the Catholic Youth Association of Vinh reported. Among them was Le Quoc Quan, a celebrated Catholic lawyer who has just filled out his application to run for Congress as a Catholic. Others arrested were Paulus Le Son, a blogger and a regular writer on the Redemptorists’ website; John Nguyen Van Tam, Catholic Student Group leader, and other young, patriotic students who came to show their respect for the non-Catholic defendant.
It had been reported by numerous eyewitnesses, shortly before being arrested those Catholic individuals were closely stalked, their cell phone use monitored and they were subsequently roughly manhandled, even bystanders who came to their rescue were subjected to beatings until they had to let go of the victims in order to avoid being severely injured.
With Le Quoc Quan in custody at the Hoan Kiem station, police raided his house, turned everything upside down, taking away his computers and documents along with a safe box. Another Catholic prominent reporter JB Nguyen Huu Vinh, who had been beaten half dead at Dong Chiem last year, was summoned right on the day for interrogation after his article on police brutality against innocent people had been published on a Catholic website.
The arbitrary arrests of police against people attending the court, and the lack of due process in the conduct of the trial to which all defendant lawyers walked out of the court to protest serious violations of the law during the proceedings prompted a statement from US. State Department. Spokesman Mark Toner stated that "We're also troubled by the lack -- apparent lack of -- due process in the conduct of the trial and the continued detention of several individuals who are peacefully seeking to observe the proceedings”.
During his trial, the rights advocate who had twice attempted to sue Vietnam Prime Minister told the court he was innocent of the charges, saying: "This criminal case was invented against me. This case is completely illegal." But the chief judge of Hanoi People's Court said his actions had been "harmful to society", cutting off Vu's self defence argument. "His writings and interviews - claimed the judge - blackened directly or indirectly the Communist Party of Vietnam”.
Vu's lawyers walked out of court after the judge refused to make public 10 interviews he was accused of conducting with foreign media - key parts of the case against him.
After the trial, his lawyers said there had been "serious violations of the law" during the proceedings. His wife, Duong Ha, also a lawyer was the only defendant's family member allowed in the courtroom. She broke down in tears learning that so many Catholic parishioners and supporters around the country had suffered attacks by police in an effort to show their support to her husband. She wished to express her gratefulness to those who were there for her husband, and her concern for those who are still in police's custody.
Many have believed that the heavy sentence on Monday against lawyer Vu sent a clear signal that the government would not tolerate criticism of the current system, at a time when Vietnam’s economic model is facing severe challenges. It also serves as an indication of the Vietnamese government’s growing submissiveness to China.
In 2009, Vu submitted a legal action against a Vietnamese prime minister in a clear attempt to cancel a controversial bauxite mining plan by Chinese companies, which had sparked unusual opposition from a cross-section of society.