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Media advocate arrested for "spreading propaganda against government"

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Vietnamese lawyer and media advocate Le Cong Dinh was arrested by the police at his home in Ho Chi Minh City on 13 June 2009, SEAPA sources said.

Major General Hoang Cong Tu, head of the Investigation Agency at the Ministry of Public Security, announced in a press briefing the same day that Dinh was arrested because the lawyer had reported distorted facts to foreign news agencies and allegedly libelled Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Charged with violating Article 88 of the Vietnam Criminal Code, Dinh faces three to 20 years' imprisonment if proven guilty. Article 88 covers the crime of spreading propaganda against the government.

Accused of working with "hostile forces" against the government, Dinh is well known for defending human rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan when they appealed their prison sentences for spreading anti-government propaganda in 1997, according to SEAPA's sources inside Vietnam.

He also defended in court the famous blogger Dieu Cay for his right to free speech. Dieu Cay, aka Nguyen Hoang Hai, has been recently adopted as PEN Canada's honorary member. His clients also include human rights activists.

The Swedish Bar Association has sent out a letter of protest to the Vietnamese authorities about Dinh's arbitrary arrest.

Dinh, who runs his own law firm in Ho Chi Minh City, was also the former deputy head of the HCMC Bar Association.

His writings have been featured in the international media, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Radio Free Asia (RFA). He also wrote articles for websites such as "Vietnam Democracy Movement", "Vietnam Reform", "New Horizon", "Thorough Discussion", and "Democratic Freedom", which Vietnamese authorities view as "subversive".
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