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Human rights lawyers and Internet writers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan sentenced to prison

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN protests the imprisonment of lawyers and internet writers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan (f), who were sentenced to five years and four years respectively by the Hanoi People's Court on 11 May 2007. PEN is alarmed about an apparent crackdown on leading pro-democracy figures in recent weeks, including Father Nguyen Van Ly, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in March 2007. PEN considers Nguyen Van Ly, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong to be detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to free expression, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a signatory.

According to PEN's information, lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan were arrested at their homes on the morning of 6 March 2007. They were accused of "hostile propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" for their critical writings and dissident activities with the pro-democracy movement ''Bloc 8406'', including the recent signing of a petition under their real names. They were found guilty of "spreading propaganda intended to undermine Vietnam's Communist government" under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on 11 May 2007, and sentenced to five and four years in prison respectively.

Nguyen Van Dai is one of the leaders of the democracy movement ''Bloc 8406'' and regularly posts pro-democracy essays on foreign websites. He started a web-log on the Reporters Sans Frontiers web-log platform shortly before his arrest ( ). He and fellow lawyer Le Thi Cong Nhan have been under heavy surveillance for some time for their dissident activities, and were briefly detained on 3 February 2007 and held for 48 hours. Nguyen Van Dai was reportedly subjected to criticism by a "popular court" on 8 February 2007, in which 200 residents from a district of Hanoi were mobilised by the authorities to insult and denounce him for being a "traitor".

Le Thi Cong Nhan is the spokesperson for the recently founded Vietnam Progression Party, and a member of the democracy movement "Bloc 8406".

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