Vietnamese Dissident Meets Family Members for First Time Since Arrest

Jailed Vietnamese dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan told family members Tuesday in his first meeting with them since his detention nearly a year ago that his conviction is unfounded and he plans to lodge an appeal, according to his brother.

Authorities allowed Quan a half-hour meeting with five family members at the Hoa Lo No. 1 Prison in Hanoi, where he has been held since he was handed a 30-month sentence on tax evasion charges last week after being detained in December.

“He is not happy about the verdict and does not agree with it,” his brother and fellow activist Le Quoc Quyet told RFA’s Vietnamese Service after the meeting.

“He said … he should have been acquitted,” Quyet said, adding that his brother had drafted an appeal on Monday.

International rights groups have contended that the charges are part of a government campaign to silence Quan, a prominent Catholic blogger and activist who had defended victims of religious persecution and written critically of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party online.

Quan had rejected the charges at the trial last week, saying they were part of a political vendetta against him and vowing to continue his fight against corruption.

Quyet said Tuesday’s meeting was the first time family members other than Quan’s wife, who had spoken with Quan at the trial, were allowed to see the dissident since his arrest in December 2012.

Regular visits

Authorities have agreed to allow Quan regular monthly visits with his family now that the trial is over, he said.

Quyet said he and Quan’s wife, mother, and two younger sisters had talked to the dissident for 30 minutes through a glass window.

“He sent his thanks to his supporters—people from the Buddhist church, the Hoa Hao church, Catholics, and others he helped claim justice for before,” Quyet said. “Their presence at the trial moved him.”

Quan’s jailing drew “deep concern” from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and strong condemnation from rights groups, who said the outspoken lawyer had been targeted for his activism. 

Quan was previously first jailed for three months in 2007 for "activities to overthrow the people's government" after he returned from an American government funded-fellowship in Washington.

Hundreds of supporters were barred from attending last week’s trial, which had been scheduled to take place in July but was abruptly postponed due to the judge’s illness.

A week before the trial took place, Quyet was beaten and briefly detained in a police swoop on a dinner party with fellow activists. 

Right activists have said they fear Quan could face a similar fate to prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai—also known as Dieu Cay—who received a 30-month prison sentence for tax evasion in 2008.

Upon his scheduled release, Hai was immediately rearrested on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state” and later sentenced to 12 years in prison.  

Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.