More than 50 lawyers in Vietnam signed a petition this week calling on authorities to protect the legal rights of a lawyer accused of tax evasion after agreeing to defend a dissident blogger abducted in Thailand in January and brought back to Vietnam by force.
Key documents in the case of the blogger, RFA contributor Truong Duy Nhat, 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 on Friday to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, 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 laid against him were intended to prevent him from defending his client, Nhat, in court.
Soon after the raid, Tuan said, the Police Investigation Department of the Ministry of Public Security issued a notice barring Hai from representing Nhat, though he had registered as Nhat’s attorney more than three months before.
“Some will reply, others may not, but this may still have some effect,” Tuan said, adding that questions of Hai’s guilt in the tax case raised against him will be finally be decided “through the process of investigation.”
“Soon we will know the truth,” he said.
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 in a Hanoi jail, in what legal experts have called a violation of Vietnam’s criminal procedure laws by the country’s police.
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.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.