Vietnamese authorities are blocking a defense attorney from meeting with his detained client, citing “national security” concerns in the case, the jailed man’s lawyer told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday.
The move, made in conflict with Vietnam’s own laws, has raised additional concerns in the case of U.S. citizen Michael Nguyen, who was detained on the same day and has been held without trial for almost a year.
Vietnamese law permits lawyers to meet with their clients even in sensitive cases once the investigation phase of the case has concluded, Nguyen Van Mieng—attorney for Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, detained on July 7, 2018—told RFA, saying he had already filed several requests.
“I have sent via the post office my request to the chief of Ho Chi Minh City’s Prosecution Office,” Mieng said, adding that the chief of that office “is entitled to decide to let lawyers participate in a ‘national security’ case as soon as the case investigation ends.”
No reply to his requests have been received, however, Mieng said.
On March 3, police investigators announced their investigation had concluded, and that a charge of working to subvert state authority under Article 109 of the Vietnam Penal Code had been filed against Binh.
Also speaking to RFA, Binh’s mother Nguyen Thi Hue said that she had visited her son in detention in April.
“I saw that Binh was in good health,” Hue said.
“We were allowed to meet for around 30 to 40 minutes, but could only talk about his health. No questions about his case were allowed,” she said.
Detained on or around the same day as Binh were his father Huynh Duc Thinh, Facebook users Tran Long Phi and Quoc Bao, and U.S. citizen Michael Phuong Nguyen, who disappeared while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam.
On July 31, the U.S. consulate in Ho Chi Minh City confirmed Nguyen had been taken into custody and was being held at a detention center in the city while under investigation for offenses under Article 109.
Nguyen has been held without trial and without contact with lawyers or his family ever since. Recent efforts by RFA to reach Nguyen’s family have been unsuccessful.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.