VIETNAM CHARGES HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER
December 23, 2009: Vietnam has charged a well-known human rights lawyer and his associates with subversion, a charge that could carry the death penalty, state media reported.
Prosecutors have charged Le Cong Dinh with "working to overthrow the state," the Thanh Nien (Youth) newspaper reported.
Dinh is likely to go on trial within the next two weeks along with Nguyen Tien Trung, who recently studied engineering in Paris; Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, a Ho Chi Minh City businessman; and Le Thanh Long, another Ho Chi Minh City businessman.
Prosecutors maintain that the four were members of the Vietnam Democratic Party, a United States-based organization that Vietnam's communist government considers a "reactionary organization."
A fifth defendant, Tran Anh Kim, is to be tried separately in the northern province of Thai Binh.
Dinh was also accused of participating in a three-day training course for nonviolent struggle organized by Viet Tan, a California-based pro-democracy group that Vietnam considers a terrorist organization.
Dinh, one of Vietnam's most high-profile attorneys, represented two human rights attorneys who were jailed by the government in 2007 on charges of spreading anti-government propaganda. At their trial, he made an outspoken defense of free speech.
He studied law at Tulane University in the United States on a Fulbright scholarship and has served as vice chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City bar association.
According to Thanh Nien, prosecutors have described that case against Dinh and his associates as a "particularly serious violation of national security," the paper said.
The paper quoted the indictment as saying Dinh and his associates "colluded with Vietnamese reactionary groups and hostile forces in exile" to form a reactionary political organization "aimed at overthrowing the people's government through nonviolent means." (Sources: Ap, 23/12/2009)