12/17/2015, 00.00
VIETNAM

Nguyen Van Dai, a Christian lawyer, detained for "propaganda against the state"

About 20 police officers broke into the dissident’s home and took him into custody before he could meet with European Union officials to discuss human rights. Searching for evidence, they seized his computers and Christian symbols. Jailed between 2007 to 2011, Dai was one of the first to sign a petition that called for an end to Vietnam’s one-party state. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Vietnamese authorities on Wednesday detained dissident lawyer Nguyen Van Dai on charges of “propaganda against the state”. A Christian, he had served four years in prison on the same charges.

A week ago, masked assailants beat him for giving public lessons on human rights. Yesterday, Dai, 46, was on his way to meet with representatives of the European Union, which had held a bilateral talks with Vietnam in Hanoi on human rights a day earlier. After searching his home in the capital Hanoi, at least 20 police officers took him into custody.

According to the testimony provided by his wife, Khanh, police broke into their house around 8:30 am and, in search of evidence, seized two laptops, one desktop, some USB keys, a camera and two video cameras, a notebook of Home Bookkeeping and "everything that had a logo for human rights."

“They arrested my husband under Article 88 and informed us that he would be temporarily jailed for four months at B14 Prison [in Hanoi],” she said. “A T-shirt with the words ‘Hong Kong today, Vietnam tomorrow,’ [. . .] and all of our reading on civil society produced by the U.S. Embassy were among the things taken,” she added.

Police also confiscated all of their material about Christianity. “We believe in Jesus. I told them that was our religion . . . but they ignored my words,” she said.

Founder of the dissident Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam in 2006, now called the Vietnam Human Rights Centre, Dai was one of the original signatories to the 2013 online petition on Freedom and Democracy (backed by the Catholic Church) which called for an end to Vietnam’s one-party state.

Between 2007 and 2011, Dai served four years in prison for anti-state propaganda. His license to practice law has since been revoked. Under Article 88 of the Penal Code, he faces between 3 and 20 years in jail if convicted.

According to Human Rights Watch, between 150 and 200 bloggers and activists are currently held in Vietnamese prisons for exercising and defending fundamental human rights.

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