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Writer detained at airport, prevented from traveling to Norway to meet with human rights groups

(Norwegian PEN/IFEX) - The following is a joint Norwegian PEN, International PEN and International Publishers Association letter to Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong:

Oslo, 4 September 2008

Mr. Ha Hung Cuong
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
24 A Cat Linh Street
Hanoi
Vietnam
Fax: 0084 843 1431

Your Excellency

Norwegian PEN, International PEN and the International Publishers Association hereby strongly protest the unwarranted detention of writer, poet and human rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan at the Hanoi Noi Bai airport at 10:30pm on September 1st, 2008 by security police. Le Quoc Quan was on his way to Norway to meet with Norwegian PEN and other human rights groups when he was detained in Hanoi.

According to eyewitnesses, Le Quoc Quan protested the detainment, citing that it violates the Vietnamese constitution, which states in Article 68 that: "The citizen shall enjoy freedom of movement and of residence within the country; he can freely travel abroad and return home from abroad in accordance with the provisions of the law." Finally, the security police tried to make him sign an agreement, stating that he was being stopped from leaving the country because he was needed for a police investigation. According to Norwegian PEN sources, Le Quoc Quan and others had been assaulted by secret police while present at a sit-in for religious freedom in Hanoi a few months ago.

According to eyewitnesses who were with Quan at the airport, the police took away Quan's visa, which was issued by the Norwegian embassy in Hanoi. According to Norwegian PEN sources, the Vietnamese government would not allow Le Quoc Quan to go to Norway. Also, Quan's passport was only valid for 3 more months, and would expire on December 26/2008. However, according to our sources, who spoke briefly with Quan on a cell phone, police also invalidated his passport and he may no longer travel abroad.

Norwegian PEN and International PEN protest the Vietnamese government's policy of preventing its citizens from speaking out, from voicing their human rights concerns and from telling the world about the human rights violations of the Vietnamese authorities. We also protest the interference of the security police by destroying a valid travel document issued by another country and call for an end to the harassment and intimidation of Le Quoc Quan and that he is issued a new and valid passport.

We trust, your Excellency, that you will give this matter your fullest attention.

Sincerely,

Anders Heger
President, Norwegian PEN

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General, Norwegian PEN

Eugene Schoulgin
International Secretary, International PEN

Bjørn Smith-Simonsen
Chair, Freedom to Publish Committee, International Publishers Association

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