06/08/2018, 09.50
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Human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, released and exiled to Germany

He and his colleague Le Thu Ha arrived in Frankfurt this morning on a Vietnam Airlines flight from Hanoi. The two lawyers and four other members of Brotherhood for Democracy were sentenced to a total of 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest.

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The well-known human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and another member of Brotherhood for Democracy were released from prison yesterday evening and boarded a plane bound for Germany. The liberation and exile of Dai and his colleague Le Thu Ha took place about two months after a harsh sentence for "activities aimed at overthrowing the state". On 5 April, Dai was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of house arrest, while Ha was given nine years in prison (photo).

The two lawyers and journalists Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc and Nguyen Bac Truyen were convicted as members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, a group founded by Dai in 2013 to defend human rights and promote democratic ideals in Vietnam. They conducted campaigns for victims of injustice, supported religious freedom and political prisoners and their families. In all, the Hanoi court imposed convictions on activists for a total of 66 years in prison and 17 years under house arrest.

Exponents of Viet Tan, a Vietnamese democratic party, reported that Dai, his wife, Vu Minh Khanh and Ha, arrived this morning in Frankfurt on a Vietnam Airlines flight from Hanoi. The Vietnamese government and state media have not issued statements on the release of the two lawyers, which has been confirmed by the Brotherhood for Democracy.

Dai, 48, was arrested along with Ha in December 2015, following a human rights meeting with EU officials in Hanoi. Two days ago, their case was quoted by 90 NGOs linked to Vietnam in a letter urging the EU to reject a free trade pact with Vietnam, until the regime released political prisoners and recognized freedom of speech and other fundamental rights.

According to a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last February, there are currently 129 political prisoners in the Southeast Asian country, arrested for criticizing or protesting against the communist regime.  These accusations are rejected by Hanoi which claims there are no prisoners for crimes of opinion, but only criminals punished for violating the law. Vietnam occupies one of the lowest places in the world rankings for freedom of the press: according to the index published in 2017 by the NGO Reporters Without Borders, it is ranked 175 out of 180 countries.

Since 2016, activists and bloggers are the targets of a government campaign against dissent. Opponents of the regime suffer daily harassment, intimidation, police surveillance and interrogation and are subjected to long periods of prior detention without access to lawyers or family members. Even the Catholic community has paid the price for its commitment. The harsh sentences handed down to Catholic activists are frequent, as evidenced by the recent cases of Nguyễn Văn Oai (five years in prison), Trần Thị Nga (nine), Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh (10) and Nguyễn Văn Hóa (seven) .

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