EFF has long condemned the Vietnamese government's crackdown on bloggers, including the imprisonment of high-profile blogger and activist Le Quoc Quan. Our support for freedom of expression in Vietnam has even earned us the attention of the Vietnamese government, which attempted to compromise our employees' computers by sending them links to malware. We are pleased to anticipate Quan's imminent release from prison on June 27, though we are sad to note that Quan owes his release not to a change of heart on the part of the Vietnamese government, but the fact that he has served the full term of his 30-month prison sentence related to politically-motivated charges of tax evasion.
The Vietnamese government has a long history of persecuting Quan for his human rights work. In 2007, after representing numerous victims of human rights violations, he was disbarred from practicing as a lawyer on suspicion of engaging in “activities to overthrow the regime.” He has been arrested several times for continuing his human rights work. Following an attack by unknown assailants in August 2012, he was hospitalized and the attack was never investigated by the police. On December 27, 2012, Quan was arbitrarily arrested and detained while taking his daughter to school.
In 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned Quan’s detention as violating his right to freedom of expression and his right to a fair trial. It found that Quan had been targeted for his work as an activist and blogger and called for his immediate release or for the charges against him to be determined by an independent and impartial tribunal in proceedings conducted in strict compliance with the provisions of the ICCPR. It found that he had been held incommunicado, refused access to his lawyer, and denied pre-trial release in violation of ICCPR fair trial rights. It also recommended that Viet Nam pay damages to Quan for his arbitrary detention. All of these recommendations were ignored by the Vietnamese government. In February 2014, Quan launched a hunger strike to protest the refusal by prison authorities to provide him with access to legal counsel, access to legal and religious books, and access to a priest for spiritual guidance ahead of his appeal trial. Weeks later, the Court of Appeal in Hanoi upheld Quan’s conviction.
EFF joins with a coalition of NGO's including Amnesty International, English PEN, and Frontline Defenders, urging the Vietnamese government to respect and protect Quan's rights in the wake of his release. Specifically, we call on the government to refrain from any further persecution or harassment and/or unlawful arrest, reinstate his license to work as a lawyer and undo his disbarment, and grant him reparations for the arbitrary detention he has suffered. The full text of the letter is available in the PDF below.