Vietnamese lawyer who defended Catholics and rights activists suspended

» 08/17/2011 13:29

Huynh Van Dong, 33, can no longer practice after he is accused of contempt of court. The decision by the Dac Lac Provincial Bar Association causes protests by international organisations. In the past, the lawyer represented Can Dau parishioners in cases of forced expropriations.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – A famous Vietnamese lawyer and human rights activist will no longer be able to practice his profession after he was found “guilty” of defending high profile dissidents, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. The Dac Lac Provincial Bar Association (central Vietnam) on 12 August suspended Huynh Van Dong, 33, in response to a June request by a provincial court to disbar the lawyer for “disrespecting the law”.

In May, the Vietnamese lawyer had represented pro-democracy activists Tran Thi Thuy and Pham Van Thong in their preliminary trial in southern Ben Tre province.

Thuy, Thong, and five other men were later convicted of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” after they allegedly left the country to receive training and funding from Viet Tan before returning home to “operate.” The US-based Viet Tan is banned in Vietnam and is considered by the ruling Communist party as a terrorist group.

The Ben Tre People’s Court said that during the trial, Dong had exhibited “behaviours that violated Attorney’s Laws and took advantage of freedom and democracy rights to infringe upon the interests of the state”.

The court specifically mentioned Dong’s “attitude opposing the trial” and his attempt to “transform the trial into a public forum, degrade the credibility and [offend] the Communist Party and the Government of Vietnam,” court documents said.

The decision has outraged a number of groups and associations, including the Malaysia-based Media Defence Southeast Asia, which noted that the ruling violates the principles of separation of powers and judicial independence.

This is not the first time that the authorities have targeted Huynh Van Dong. Many times, he was detained and interrogated. On more than one occasion, he entered a plea of innocence for his clients instead of asking for the court’s clemency.

He represented Catholics from Thai Ha and Can Dau parishes in March 2009 and May 2011 in cases involving property and non-authorised demonstrations.

In recent weeks, Huynh Van Dong had written online that freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of political parties had become a ‘luxury’ in Vietnam.