A court in Vietnam’s Nha Trang City on Friday convicted a lawyer charged with tax evasion after he agreed to defend a dissident blogger and RFA contributor who was abducted in Thailand in January and brought back to Vietnam by force.
Tran Vu Hai, who offered to defend blogger Truong Duy Nhat, and whose office was raided in July by police who seized key documents in the case, was spared jail but was sentenced to serve a period of from 12 to 15 months under house arrest, state media said.
Nearly 60 lawyers had applied to represent Hai at trial, sources told RFA in an earlier report, with one source calling the high number of applications an example of Vietnamese lawyers’ solidarity in opposing an unjust case.
Ngo Anh Tuan—an attorney who had helped launch a petition was sent on July 15 to 11 senior leaders in Vietnam—told RFA that Hai’s treatment at the hands of the authorities raised questions that had to be answered.
Among those was 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, Tuan said.
Truong Duy 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 charges of “abusing his position” for his alleged involvement in a land-fraud case while serving as bureau chief at a newspaper in Danang city in the 1990s.
He has not yet been brought to trial.
According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam’s one-party communist government currently holds an estimated 138 political prisoners, including rights advocates and bloggers deemed threats to national security.
It also controls all media, censors the internet, and restricts basic freedoms of expression.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.