The wife of a detained outspoken Vietnamese legal scholar has accused security authorities of trampling on individual rights, citing the manner in which police stormed into his hotel room and held him, and broke into and searched their house.
There have been various "wrongdoings" in relation to Cu Huy Ha Vu's arrest, said his wife, Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, in a petition filed this week to Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and officials in the charge of the police, investigations and prosecution departments.
Her petition came as human rights groups demanded an end to Hanoi's crackdown on lawyers and activists challenging the government.
The authorities raided a hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City on Nov. 5 and arrested Vu soon after he filed a follow-up lawsuit against the prime minister for allegedly violating laws on environmental protection, national security and cultural heritage by approving Chinese-built bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands.
Vu, the scion of a prominent Communist family, was accused of distributing propaganda documents against the one party communist state and of calling for a multiparty system, and "maligning and defaming" the Communist Party and government leaders, state media have reported.
He was also accused of having ties with government critics inside the country and unspecified "hostile forces" from outside.
Basic rights disregarded
His wife Ha questioned the circumstances under which the police raided her husband's hotel room and searched their house and removed various paraphernalia, saying basic rights of individuals that were enshrined in the constitution were disregarded.
"What the police did was illegal," said Ha, a lawyer, adding that her husband had the right to have a guest or wear whatever he wanted in his private room.
Ho Chi Minh City police arrested Vu just after midnight, claiming to have found him in a hotel room with a woman who is not his wife.
Online government newspapers immediately posted blurry images of a shirtless Vu with a woman in a hotel room, but the photos were removed from some sites hours later amid accusations by netizens that they were fabricated.
Police interrogated Vu and the woman at the hotel room, “but found no evidence of sexual relations between the two" as some officials had initially charged, according to Vu's uncle Cu Huy Chu, who met officials immediately after his nephew's arrest.
The woman with Vu in the hotel room has also hired a lawyer to look into possible libel action against local newspapers.
Police went through various documents belonging to Vu in the hotel room and "did not find anything wrong," Ha said.
They confiscated his laptop, and sent a team of officers with warrants and searched his home and law office in Hanoi.
Crackdown on lawyers
Ha said police violated the law by breaking into Vu's and her house when nobody was at home.
She expected the authorities to reply to her charges in the petition.
"The Vietnamese law is very clear. I strongly believe in the law," said Ha, who runs a law firm with her husband.
Meanwhile, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called on the Vietnamese government to immediately release Vu and end what it calls a crackdown on lawyers and activists challenging the government on human rights.
"Cu Huy Ha Vu's arrest is the Vietnamese government's latest salvo in its campaign of repression against independent lawyers and activists who defend human rights and challenge official misconduct," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Vu joins a growing group of corruption-busting human rights lawyers and legal defenders including Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Van Dai, Le Thi Cong Nhan, Le Tran Luat, Ta Phong Tan, Tran Quoc Hien, Le Quoc Quan, and Nguyen Bac Truyen.
They have been arbitrarily arrested, detained, disbarred, and pressured not to represent political or religious activists, Human Rights Watch said.
In many cases, the government has pressed employers to dismiss them or landlords to evict them, and persecuted them in other ways, it said.
Reported by Mac Lam for Radio Free Asia's Vietnamese service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.