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Vietnam: Christian advocate, Nguyen Van Dai, arrested

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service
3/8/07 Vietnam (Assist News Service) — Nguyen Van Dai is one of Vietnam’s few practising human rights lawyers and a founder of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam. As noted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) the persecution of Nguyen Van Dai commenced in August 2006 as he and other dissidents were planning to launch an independent bulletin. (Link 1)
An August 2006 bulletin from the Law Office of Nguyen Van Dai entitled “Vietnam Steps up Repression of Religious Freedom” can be viewed at Link 2.

HRW reports that Dai was detained and interrogated by police from 9 to 14 November 2006 and kept under house arrest from 15 to 22 November while the APEC meetings were in progress.

As reported in a recent WEA RLC News & Analysis posting, the persecution against Dai intensified in early February 2007 after he hosted Vietnam’s first ever discussion on human rights law. (Link 3)

Nguyen Van Dai is being persecuted because, as a lawyer who is representing the persecuted Church and advocating for religious liberty, he has considerable evidence that Vietnam is not living up to its international agreements to improve religious liberty in the country. If Vietnam is to retain its privileges while continuing its persecution, then Nguyen Van Dai must be silenced.


According to a press release from The People’s Democratic Party (PDP: link 4) “Vietnamese human rights lawyer Nguyen van Dai, a founder of the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, one of eight Vietnamese to be awarded the Hellman/Hammett grant [from Human Rights Watch], was arrested in Ha Noi on 6 March 2007.”
According to the PDP, lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan, spokesperson of Thang Tien Party (The Progression Party) was arrested from her home at 10 am on the same day. She had been detained and interrogated with Dai in early February.

The government mouthpiece, the Viet Nam News Agency, reported (7 March): “The Ha Noi Investigation and Security Police yesterday arrested Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, attorneys of the Thien An Law Office at 10 Doan Tran Nghiep Street in Hanoi , on charges of propagandising against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

” Nguyen Van Dai, 38, head of the Thien An Law Office, and Le Thi Cong Nhan, 28, an attorney registered to work at the office, were arrested under Vietnam’s Penal Code, Term 88, Article 1, points a and c.”

According to Viet Nam News Agency, documents seized in a search of Dia’s law office “contained distorted information on the country’s situation, inflammatory statements against the Government, information related to the establishment and announcement of reactionary organisations opposing the State of Vietnam.

“The investigators also found many documents that proved that Dai and Nhan received instructions and financial support from overseas to open courses on human rights and democracy and to sponsor people who signed their petitions so as to lure forces against the State of Vietnam, as well as to collect Vietnam ‘s socio-political and religious information for parties abroad.

“The initial results of the investigation showed that since 2004, Dai took advantage of the State’s permission to establish the law office to propagandise, gather forces and conspire with political opportunists and hostile forces at home and abroad to oppose the State. Nhan has actively helped Dai, according to the initial results of the investigation.

“These alleged acts run counter to the interests of the nation and people, seriously violating Vietnam ‘s laws.” (Link 5)
Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan have both been charged with violating article 88 of Viet Nam ‘s Criminal Law which deals with “conducting propaganda activities to harm the security of state”. The PDP reports that the arrest order provides for Dai and Nhan to be temporarily incarcerated for four months pending further investigation. While the whereabouts of Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan are unknown, the PDP expects that they are being detained in B14 prison at Kim Giang village, Thanh Tri province, Ha Noi or Ha Noi Detention Center, at Cau Dien-Tu Liem-Ha Noi, Viet Nam .

The “Vietnam Committee” news release on the website of “Que Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam ” adds that while the arrest warrant condemns the lawyers to four months detention, “In fact, they risk a much longer detention. Under Vietnam ‘s Criminal Procedures Code, this 4-month period may be extended four times for national security offenders (i.e. a total of 20 months), after which the People’s Procurator is entitled to apply ‘other deterrent measures’ (Article 120).” (Link 6)

Que Me comments: “Article 88 is one of the vaguely-defined, catch-all ‘national security’ offences in Vietnam ‘s Criminal Code which have incurred widespread international criticism. In July 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Committee denounced these provisions as ‘incompatible’ with international human rights law and demanded their immediate repeal.”


Que Me quotes Mr Vo Van Ai, President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights as saying, “We anticipated this crack-down on dissent after the APEC Summit, once Vietnam had obtained all it wanted from the international community, such as WTO membe rship and removal from the US State department’s blacklist of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom violations [see link 7]. We did not have to wait long. Today, Vietnam has resorted to its old repressive habits, crushing all peaceful voices of dissent. The arrest of Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan and other pro-democracy activists, as well as intensified repression against leaders of 20 Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam all over Vietnam , reveal the hypocrisy and double language of the Vietnamese regime”.
The PDP news release also reports that police have been harassing and intimidating several members of the Mennonite Church in Central Region of Vietnam. “Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang has asked for urgent help due to constantly harassment from the police on Mennonite followers in remote area as Plei Ku city, Gia Ray province”.
Other victims of religious persecution include Father Nguyen Van Ly who has also been accused of violating Article 88. Father Ly has been forcibly removed from his parish and pla ced under house-arrest in a remote location. (Link 8)
Elizabeth Kendal (WEA RLC)
[email protected]


1) Vietnam : Dissidents Struggle to Exercise Free Speech
Eight Writers Win Prestigious Hellman/Hammett Prize
6 February 2007

2) To understand why the Vietnamese government is persecuting Nguyen van Dai, see:
“Vietnam Steps up Repression of Religious Freedom”.
From the Law Office of Nguyen Van Dai. 21 August 2006

3) Vietnam Persecuting Honoured Christian Advocate
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 19 Feb 2007

4) The People’s Democratic Party
[email protected]

5) Two lawyers arrested for anti-Government activities. 7 March 2007

6) Vietnam crackdown on pro-democracy activists: Lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan arrested in Hanoi
PARIS , 6th March 2007 (Vietnam Committee)

7) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
USCIRF Disappointed About Removal of Vietnam from U.S. Government’s List of Religious Freedom Violators; Welcomes Re-Designation of Saudi Arabia and Addition of Uzbekistan. 13 November 2006

8) Fr Nguyen Van Ly arrested in Hue . 21 Feb 2007