UPDATE 2/18/14: After a four-hour trial, Le Quoc Quan's sentence was upheld today. It took 30 minutes for the jury to reach a verdict. EFF condemns this verdict and continues to call for his immediate release.

On February 18, prominent Vietnamese activist and blogger Le Quoc Quan will appear in a Hanoi court to begin the appeal of his politically-motivated October 2013 conviction of evading corporate income tax. The Vietnamese government has pursued a campaign of harassment against Quan for his human rights work since at least 2007, including disbarment, periodic arrests, and an attack by unknown assailants that led to his hospitalization in 2012. The Vietnamese government's latest efforts to silence the human rights lawyers and high-profile blogger began on December 27, 2012, when Quan was arbitrarily arrested and detained while taking his daughter to school.

His trial was delayed after domestic and international calls for his release. But in October 2013, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced him to 30 months’ imprisonment, which he is serving in Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi. In 2013, Quan's detention was condemned by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary 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 a lawyer and as a blogger and called for his immediate release or for his conviction to be reviewed by an independent court. It also recommended that Viet Nam should pay damages to Le Quoc Quan for his arbitrary detention. The government of Viet Nam has not responded at all to this decision.

Since February 2nd, Quan has been on a hunger strike, protesting the refusal by prison authorities to provide him access to legal counsel, legal and religious books, or a priest for spiritual guidance. In anticipation of his appeal, he writes from prison:

I hope that there will be positive developments in my upcoming appeals trial and I hope to continue to receive your support. The support from outside will have a decisive role in determining the victory of freedom and justice inside the courtroom.

EFF has joined with a broad coalition of NGOs and networks from around the world to call on the government of Vietnam to comply with the decision of the United Nations Working Group and release Le Quoc Quan immediately. Right now it is vitally important to remind the Vietnamese government that even as they're watching us, the world is also watching them.

Photo: Lê Quốc Quân by Wikimedia user ASM, released under Creative Commons BY-SA