Viet Nam: Arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of human rights lawyer and blogger Le Quoc Quan

The Observatory has been informed by the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Le Quoc Quan, a human rights lawyer and blogger.
According to the information received, on February 18, 2014, the Hanoi Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Mr. Le Quoc Quan to 30 months’ imprisonment on charges of “tax evasion” under Section 161 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.
The Observatory recalls that Mr. Le Quoc Quan has been detained since December 27, 2013 in the Hoa Lo detention centre No. 1 in Hanoi. In August 2013, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) declared his detention to be arbitrary and in breach of international norms of fair trial. In its opinion No. 33/2013 adopted in August 2013, the WGAD found that Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s detention “could be related to his blog articles on civil and political rights. Although the charge against Mr. Quan is one of tax evasion, given Mr. Quan’s history as a human rights defender and blogger, the real purpose of the detention and prosecution might eventually be to punish him for exercising his rights under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to deter others from doing so”. Consequently, the WGAD requested “the Government to take necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Le Quoc Quan, which is immediate release, or ensure that charges are determined by an independent and impartial tribunal in proceedings conducted in strict compliance with the provisions of the ICCPR”.
The Observatory strongly condemns the Court of Appeals’ decision to uphold the conviction of Mr. Le Quoc Quan, as it merely aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory urges the Vietnamese authorities to implement the WGAD's Opinion and release Mr. Le Quoc Quan immediately and unconditionally.
Background information:
Vietnamese authorities have repeatedly harassed Mr. Le Quoc Quan since 2007 because of his human rights activities.
On October 3, 2012, some 50 security police and plain-clothed militia forcibly entered into the head office of Mr. Le Quoc Quan's firm in Hanoi and its branch office in Ho Chi Min City. The firm belonged to Mr. Le Quoc Quan and his two brothers Messrs. Le Dinh Quan and Le Quoc Quyet. Police seized files and documents belonging to the firm, assaulted the staff, and detained Messrs. Le Quoc Quan and Le Quoc Quyet for interrogation. On October 30, they returned and arrested Mr. Le Dinh Quan, also for alleged tax evasion. Mr. Le Dinh Quan remains detained to date.
On December 27, 2012, police in Hanoi arrested Mr. Le Quoc Quan while he was dropping off his daughter at school. The police also searched his office and his home and confiscated various documents. They apparently read out a warrant, but did not give it to Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s family. Mr. Le Quoc Quan was held incommunicado for the first two months of his detention.
On October 2, 2013, a Court in Hanoi sentenced Mr. Le Quoc Quan to 30 months in prison and to a fine of 1.3 billion VND (approximately 45,090 EUR) on charges of tax evasion under Section 161 of the Criminal Code.