Police investigators in Vietnam are now charging a dissident blogger abducted earlier this year from Thailand with “abusing his position” after failing to find evidence to convict him on an earlier charge of illegally acquiring property, his wife and a family friend say.
Truong Duy Nhat, a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, disappeared in Bangkok in late January amid fears he was abducted by Vietnamese agents, and two months later was revealed to be under arrest in Hanoi.
Jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, Nhat now faces corruption charges for his alleged involvement in a land-fraud case while serving as bureau chief at a newspaper in Danang city in the 1990s.
Investigators have been unable to prove that Nhat had illegally acquired property, though, family friend Pham Xuan Nguyen told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday after speaking with Nhat’s wife, who had visited Nhat in jail two days before.
“So they have now changed the charge to ‘abusing positions and powers while on duty,’” Xuan said, adding, “This may seem like a lesser crime, but Nhat still told his wife that he never took advantage of his positions and powers while on duty, and that he will continue to fight the charges made against him.”
Prison authorities have so far allowed Nhat to receive visits only from his wife, Cao Thi Xuan Phuong, who has now seen him twice, Nguyen said.
“On her first visit, in March, she was allowed to bring him some food and clothes, but now she has learned she can only send money. And Phuong is the only one who is allowed to visit, even though she signed a paper asking that Nhat’s younger sister, Cuc, be allowed to visit too,” Nguyen said.
“The prison refused her request,” he said.
Cuc had accompanied Phuong to the jail on July 23 hoping to see her brother, but was not allowed inside, Nguyen said.
Lawyers send petition
More than 50 lawyers in Vietnam have meanwhile signed a petition calling on authorities to protect the legal rights of a lawyer accused of tax evasion after agreeing to defend Nhat in court.
Key documents in Nhat’s case were seized earlier this month when police raided the office of his attorney Tran Vu Hai, who has defended clients in politically sensitive cases in Vietnam.
Speaking to RFA last week, lawyer Ngo Anh Tuan—who had helped to launch the petition which was sent to 11 senior leaders in Vietnam on July 15—said that Hai’s treatment at the hands of the authorities raise questions that must be answered.
Among these is whether the police raid on Hai’s office and the charges made against him were intended to prevent him from defending his client, Nhat, at his trial.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Trial. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.