Vietnamese authorities have arrested and searched the home of a prominent rights lawyer who had recently sued the country’s prime minster, according to the man’s uncle.
Cu Huy Ha Vu, the Hanoi-based son of a famous Vietnamese poet and late minister of agriculture, was picked up by police in southern Vietnam on Nov. 5 and accused of soliciting a prostitute, Cu Huy Chu said in a telephone interview.
He said the charge could be a government ploy to silence his nephew.
Last month, Cu Huy Ha Vu sued Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung over a decree that banned groups from filing petitions and complaints with the government.
“Just this morning I received a phone call from Cu Huy Ha Vu’s wife Duong Ha in Hanoi. She reported that during the last phone call she had made to Cu Huy Ha Vu, he said that he was in trouble and had just been arrested by the authorities in the sixth district of Ho Chi Minh City,” the uncle said.
He said he immediately went to the police station on behalf of Cu Huy Ha Vu's family. He was received by two high-level officials.
“The mood seemed quite friendly. The head of the station, a lieutenant colonel whose name I can’t remember, was there, as well as a second official who is the head of the sixth district,” he said.
“The two officials said Cu Huy Ha Vu was accused of having relations with a prostitute. They said police found him and a 30-year-old woman, known as Quynh, in a room at a hotel near the police station at midnight the previous evening. Quynh is also a resident of the sixth district.”
Cu Huy Chu, a former professor at the Ho Chi Minh Political Academy, said police interrogated his nephew and the woman at the hotel room, “but found no evidence of sexual relations between the two or of prostitution.”
Afterward, he said, the police drove Cu Huy Ha Vu and Quynh to the police station.
“At the police station my nephew again proclaimed that there had been no sexual relations between the two of them.”
Soliciting a prostitute is considered a minor offense in Vietnam. Offenders are usually fined.Police station
Cu Huy Chu said police also wanted to search his nephew's laptop and cell phone but that he refused.
“The police went ahead and confiscated the items anyway,” he said.
Just before that, they allowed Cu Huy Ha Vu to call his uncle from the upstairs interrogation room where he was held in order to explain what was happening to him.
“He asked me to join him there, but the officers would not allow this.”
Cu Huy Chu said he waited for more than an hour with no news.
“That was the last time I was in contact with him.”
Cu Huy Chu said that just before he left the police station, he tried once again to meet with the high-level officials who had greeted him upon his arrival.
“I asked whether the police had a warrant or any official documents ordering Cu Huy Ha Vu’s arrest. They said that they didn’t have anything,” he said.
They told him to return home and that they would contact him with any new developments.
“At around 6 p.m., the police called ... They told me that Cu Huy Ha Vu and Quynh had been officially arrested and sent to the Public Security Ministry for further interrogation.”
Calls to the Ho Chi Minh City sixth district police station to confirm the arrest went unanswered.House search
Cu Huy Chu said that soon after, he received more bad news.
“Duong Ha called me and said that police had come to their home in Hanoi and were searching the place. She said that she had been out and had received a call on her cell phone from the local authorities informing her that they were about to enter and search her house,” he said.
“When she returned home, the door was wide open and dozens of police officers had already entered her home and were searching it.”
Cu Huy Chu said that while he spoke with Duong Ha, the police continued to search the house, which they had begun nearly three hours earlier.
“According to my niece-in-law, all of the books written by [Cu Huy Ha Vu’s late father] Cu Huy Can and his friend Xuan Dieu had been tossed to the floor. She said that the place was in shambles.”
Cu Huy Can was a close friend of the late communist leader Ho Chi Minh and the first agriculture minister of independent Vietnam. Xuan Dieu, Cu Huy Ha Vu’s late uncle on his mother’s side, is one of Vietnam’s most renowned poets.Prominent activist
Cu Huy Ha Vu sued Prime Minster Dung last month in a bid to overturn a 2006 decree that prevents petitioners from filing their grievances with the Vietnamese authorities.
Dung issued the decree after hundreds of activists signed a political petition known as the 8406 Manifesto, calling for democratic reform in the one-party, Communist nation.
Cu Huy Ha Vu had said the decree violates an article of Vietnam’s constitution which grants citizens “the right to gather, form groups and protest in conformity with the law.”
He had also sued the prime minister in 2009 in the hopes of reversing the licenses granted to Chinese-run mining companies exploring Vietnam’s Central Highlands for bauxite deposits.
He said the projects broke laws on environmental protection, national security, and cultural heritage.
That suit was dismissed by court officials who said they did not have the authority to try the prime minister.Reported by Thao Dao for RFA’s Vietnamese service. Translated by Thao Dao. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.