PEN International calls upon its members to send renewed letters of appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan, whose appeal was rejected on 18 February 2014. Le Quoc Quan was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a heavy fine for alleged tax evasion on 2 October 2013. PEN believes the charges to be politically motivated and that he has been penalized for his human rights work.
TAKE ACTION: Share on FaceBook, Twitter and other social media
Please send renewed appeals:
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of blogger and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan whose 30-month sentence and heavy fine for alleged tax evasion was upheld on appeal on 18 February;
- Stating that you believe the charges to be politically motivated and intended to prevent him continuing his legitimate human rights activities and from exercising his right to freedom of expression;
- Seeking assurances that, while he remains imprisoned, Le Quoc Quan receives adequate medical treatment.
His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Mr NGUYEN TAN DUNG
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Mr PHAN BINH MINH
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam steet
Ba Dinh district
Fax: +844 3823 1872
On 18 February 2014, the Hanoi People’s Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence of Le Quoc Quan, a 41-year-old prominent blogger, human rights lawyer who has called for greater democracy in Viet Nam, ruling that the appellant had failed to present new evidence. The court took 30 minutes to reach its decision, and in announcing the verdict the court president is reported to have said that Le Quoc Quan “did not show regret and took a disrespectful attitude towards the court.” In attendance at the four-hour hearing were Le Quoc Quan’s four lawyers, wife and mother as well as an EU delegation and representatives from the US and Canadian embassies. It is estimated that at least 100 additional supporters stood outside the court. At this stage, Le Quoc Quan has no further recourse to appeal; he may only file a procedural complaint. Le Quoc Quan thanked his supporters in a letter and poem sent from prison before the appeal hearing.
On 2 October 2013, Le Quoc Quan was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a fine of 1.2 billion dongs (approx. US$ 59,000) on charges of tax evasion under Article 161 of the Criminal Code. The charges related to the alleged evasion of tax equivalent to approximately US$30,000 in relation to a consultancy company which he owned. PEN International believes that the charges – which Le Quoc Quan denies – are politically motivated.
Although the trial was declared open to the public by the authorities, it was strictly controlled and is believed to have fallen short of international fair trial standards. A few international observers were granted access to an adjacent room to watch the trial by video-link, and they reported that the closed circuit feed was frequently cut off during the course of the one-day trial. Le Quoc Quan is imprisoned in Hanoi detention camp No1, Tu Liem district, Hanoi.
Le Quoc Quan is believed to have been targeted for his blog (‘.((strlen(‘http://lequocquan.blogspot.co.uk’)>40) ? substr(‘http://lequocquan.blogspot.co.uk’,0,40).’…’ : ‘http://lequocquan.blogspot.co.uk’).’‘), in which he exposed human rights abuses and other issues not covered by the state-controlled media. Nine days before his arrest on 27 December 2012, Le Quoc Quan wrote a critical article entitled “Constitution or a contract for electricity and water service?” on the re-drafting of Vietnam’s Constitution, in which he expressed concern that it should not be used as a political vehicle for the ruling party. In addition he called for its careful revision, arguing that it should provide the foundations for democracy. The article was originally published on the BBC’s Vietnamese website. Le Quoc Quan’s pre-trial detention exceeded the maximum four months stipulated by the Vietnamese Criminal Procedures Code, during which time he was reportedly prohibited from seeing his family.
Le Quoc Quan is reported to be in ill-health following two hunger-strikes. Concerns for his well-being are heightened owing to the reported cramped and unsanitary conditions in the Hanoi detention camp where he is currently held.
Le Quoc Quan has been the target of previous harassment and arrests. On 8 March 2007 he was detained without trial by the authorities for 100 days upon his return from a US government-funded fellowship in Washington where he published a report entitled, Democracy in Vietnam: the role of society. He was charged with carrying out activities to overthrow the government under Article 79 of the Penal Code, and released on 16 June 2007. Le Quoc Quan was reportedly arrested again on unknown charges on 4 April 2011 as he attempted to approach the People’s Court of Hanoi where the trial of legal activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was taking place. In August 2012 he was reportedly attacked by men he believed were state agents, and in October of the same year he reported receiving threats from the authorities.
PEN International is currently monitoring over 40 cases of writers, journalists and bloggers serving sentences ranging from two to 16 years for their peaceful activism and critical writings. According to PEN’s records, the number of writers arbitrarily detained in Vietnam has more than tripled since 2009. There are similarities between Le Quoc Quan’s case and that of independent journalist and blogger Nguyen Van Hai (also known as Dieu Cay), who served a 30-month sentence for alleged tax fraud but instead of being released on completion of his sentence in October 2010 he was subsequently charged with a second offence of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced to 12 years in prison and five years in house arrest in September 2012. (See previous RANs: 47/08 Update #1, 66/12 and 27/13).