Vietnamese human rights lawyer Vo An Don has been stripped of his license to practice law in a ruling received on Thursday from the national Vietnam Bar Association, Don told RFA’s Vietnamese Service today.
The decision upheld a ruling made last year by the local Phu Yen Lawyers’ Association striking his name from its lists for posting a comment on his Facebook page saying lawyers in Vietnam regularly use payoffs to win cases for their clients.
Don, a lawyer based in Vietnam’s coastal Phu Yen province, has defended defendants in high-profile cases including blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as Mother Mushroom, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June 2017 for “spreading propaganda against the state.”
Speaking to RFA, Don said that the decision made against him at the national level followed moves made locally last year.
“On November 26, the Phu Yen Lawyers’ Association issued the decision to punish me by removing my name from the association,” Don said.
“I filed a complaint with the Vietnam Bar Association, and after six months I got a response from them that upheld the Phu Yen Lawyers’ Association decision and said that the Ministry of Justice would revoke my license.”
Though he is now allowed to lodge an appeal with the Ministry of Justice in his case, Don said he feels nothing would result from this as he believes orders are coming down “from the top” to punish him for his work.
Another concern is that he can no longer open a law office, Don said.
“But even though I am no longer officially a lawyer and my license has been revoked, I will continue to use my knowledge to help others, because in accordance with Vietnamese law I can still work in civil cases such as marriage, family issues, and trade,” he said.
In addition to his work defending Mother Mushroom, Don has represented defendants in other politically sensitive cases, including four Vietnamese citizens who were jailed in December after sailing to Australia in search of work and the wife of a criminal suspect who was beaten to death by police in 2012.
Don has reported regular harassment by authorities in the past, including audits of his law practice and death threats from police and state-linked hired thugs.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.