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Court Sets Disturbing Precedent In Vietnam


A man holds a poster with the image of lawyer Le Quoc Quan during a mass calling for Quan to be freed at Thai Ha church in Hanoi September 29, 2013. Participants at the mass prayer also called for justice for Quan, a political dissident and pro-democracy

An appellate court in Vietnam has upheld the controversial conviction of a prominent human rights lawyer and Internet blogger on trumped up charges of tax evasion.

An appellate court in Vietnam has upheld the controversial conviction of a prominent human rights lawyer and Internet blogger on trumped up charges of tax evasion.


The Hanoi Supreme People’s Court on February 18 confirmed an October 2013 trial judge's ruling that Vietnam Solutions, a company headed by Le Quoc Quan, evaded paying about $30,000 in taxes. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a heavy fine. The case attracted attention from human rights groups, civil society and the international community, which have voiced concerns that the Vietnamese government is using tax laws – in addition to strict media controls and political restrictions - to stifle dissent.

Mr. Quan, 42-years old, is a well-known human rights lawyer. He also wrote a blog under his own name that reported on civil rights and religious and political conditions in his country. Vietnamese authorities have detained Mr. Quan because of his activism in the past. In 2007, Mr. Quan was arrested after returning to Vietnam from the United States where he was a visiting fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. He was arrested again in December 2012 on the tax charges, and has been jailed ever since.

Quan's lawyers refuted the charges that he failed to pay taxes. They said that if there were accounting issues, they should have been resolved through administrative procedures, not in criminal prosecution.

The United States is deeply concerned about the appeals court's ruling. The use of tax laws in this way to imprison government critics for peacefully expressing their political views is disturbing. The conviction also appears to be inconsistent with the right of freedom of expression and Vietnam's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We call on the government of Vietnam to release Mr. Quan and all prisoners of conscience, and allow all citizens to peacefully express their political views.
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