Authorities block all access to detained lawyer

Dai's wife has been refused permission to see her husband for two months. Photo by Dang Bich Phuong.

Dai’s wife has been refused permission to see her husband for two months. Photo by Dang Bich Phuong.

The police are denying all access to the prominent human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, and his assistant, Le Thu Ha, who were arrested two months ago.

Family members and defence lawyers have all been refused permission to visit them at a prison camp near Hanoi where they’re being investigated on charges of using “propaganda against the state”.

The United States, the European Union and human rights organisations around the world have all appealed to the Vietnamese government to release Dai, who is recognised as a peaceful campaigner for human rights and democratic change.

Dai’s wife, Vu Minh Khanh, said that prison wardens had even refused to pass on a bible which was sent by the United States embassy as a Christmas gift.

Mrs Khanh cried as she expressed her gratitude to friends and sympathisers for their continued support for her husband.

Dai served four years in prison and four under house arrest after his last conviction in 2007

Dai served four years in prison and four under house arrest after his last conviction in 2007

Dai and Le were arrested in mid-December during a crackdown on government critics in the run-up to the Communist party congress.

Dai had been released last March after serving four years in prison and four years under house arrest on the same charge of conducting propaganda against the state.

A week before his arrest he was badly beaten up by a gang of masked men after a meeting with fellow activists.

All attempts to visit him since his arrest have been rejected and there is growing concern about his well being.

Prison wardens have also refused to pass on other books and magazines in addition to the bible.

Police agents continue to monitor those who visit the apartment in Hanoi that Dai shared with his wife, although the authorities  have removed cameras set up opposite his front door to monitor his movements after his release from house arrest.

Friends and supporters continue to visit Mrs Khanh despite the police presence. Some have also accompanied her on twice weekly visits to the detention camp where she goes to deliver food and other essentials.

Harassed by police

Prison regulations state that only close family members can visit prisoners, but not while they are being held pending trial.

One of Dai’s lawyers, Ha Huy Son, said he had asked for permission to meet his client in jail, but the Investigative Security Agency under the Ministry of Public Security declined to grant it.

It cited a law forbidding the presence of defence lawyers during the investigative period in national security cases.

Son said he would continue to wait until permission is granted.

Some government critics have been held for long periods without trial, notably the blogger, Ba Sam, who has been held for more twenty months.

Some leading members of the Brotherhood for Democracy, the civil society organisation founded by Dai, say they are also being harassed by police.

Ly Quang Son, a young member of the group, said that local police followed him wherever he went and there was a palpable sense of political repression in the air.