Wife of Vietnamese lecturer says she doesn’t believe he refused a defense lawyer

Other political prisoners had similar experiences, Dang Dang Phuoc’s wife says.
By RFA Vietnamese
2022.10.05
Wife of Vietnamese lecturer says she doesn’t believe he refused a defense lawyer A file photograph of lecturer Dang Dang Phuoc, who was arrested on Sept. 8.
Facebook: Dang Dang Phuoc

The wife of a music lecturer arrested in early September on charges of "conducting anti-state propaganda" says she does not believe local police claims he refused legal assistance.

On Sept. 14 the Security Investigation Agency of Dak Lak province’s Police Department sent Dang Dang Phuoc’s family a notice issued two days earlier which stated:

“During the interrogation of the accused, the Security Investigation Agency explained the rights and obligations of the accused under Article 60 of the Criminal Procedure Code 2015… and Dang Dang Phuoc did not ask for a defense [lawyer] but [chose to] protect his own interests during the investigation process.”

His wife, Le Thi Ha, told RFA she doesn’t believe the contents of the notice and said other political prisoners have also been denied lawyers with the same excuse.

 “My husband told me to hire a lawyer for him before he was arrested,” she said. “But six days after he was detained, the Security Investigation Agency issued a written notice of legal refusal and said he had changed his mind.”

“I have talked with many other families of political prisoners and learned that every family received a notice of refusal of a lawyer but when they talked to the prisoner [they discovered] the truth is not like that.”

Phuoc, 59, is a music lecturer at Dak Lak Pedagogical College in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. He often writes on Facebook about issues including education problems, human rights violations, corrupt officials and social injustice.

Police arrested him on Sept. 8 and said they would hold him for four months at least. They searched his house the same day. Phuoc was charged with "making, storing, spreading or propagating information, documents and items aimed at opposing the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” which carries a sentence of between seven and 20 years.

State media reported that Dak Lak Provincial Police documents said: "Since 2019 until now, Dang Dang Phuoc has taken advantage of the Facebook social network to regularly compile and publish many articles and video clips containing propaganda content that distorts and opposes the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Phuoc's family invited lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association to defend him. Mieng said he completed procedures to act as Phuoc’s lawyer at Dak Lak province’s police headquarters on Sept. 12.

Mieng told RFA that while a case related to national security was being investigated the local chief procurator could decide to deny the defendant a lawyer in order to ensure the investigation's secrecy.

Phuoc’s wife said the police have not been following official procedures.

“When they arrested Phuoc, they read the arrest warrant and searched the house but did not show me or give me the arrest warrant or search warrant,” Ha said.

It is common in political cases in Vietnam to deny defendants access to their families and lawyers during the investigation, which can last at least four months. Relatives are also prohibited from seeing prisoners of conscience until the case goes to court.

Ha said she was only allowed to send blankets and warm clothes to her husband. She said the investigator in charge of the case, Hua Quoc Thuan, told her she was not allowed to provide food for her husband, even if she bought it at the detention center canteen

RFA called the number of the Security Investigation Agency provided by Thuan but no one answered.

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