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Press Release

November 12, 2002

Rapid Action Network

RAN 54/02

VIETNAM: Dissident writer Le Chi Quang sentenced to four years’ imprisonment

International PEN is deeply alarmed by the heavy sentence handed down to the dissident writer and attorney Le Chi Quang on 8 November 2002. PEN considers him to be detained primarily for his criticism of the Vietnamese authorities and in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a signatory. We therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release.

Le Chi Quang was arrested on 21 February 2002 at an internet café, and was charged with ‘communicating with overseas elements’ via the internet for an October 2001 essay entitled ‘Beware of Imperialist China’. The essay reportedly disclosed previously unreleased details of the land and sea border treaties signed in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Quang, an outspoken critic of border agreements, was tried on 8 November 2002 by the People’s Court of Hanoi and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and three years’ house arrest for the ‘dissemination of propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’ under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code. During his trial, which lasted only three hours, Quang’s lawyer was forbidden from presenting a case in his defence and only his relatives were allowed to be present. Nearly one hundred people reportedly gathered outside the courtroom in protest, one of whom was believed to have been arrested.

Le Chi Quang is currently being held in B14 labour camp in Ha Dong province, northern Vietnam. Already suffering from a serious kidney problem, his health has reportedly gravely deteriorated since his detention began.

International PEN is extremely concerned at the recent crackdown on dissenting voices in Vietnam as illustrated by the case of Le Chi Quang and those of the dissident writers Pham Hong Son, Nguyen V! u Binh, Bui Minh Quoc and Tran Van Khue. It reminds the Vietnamese government of its commitment to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and calls for the release of all writers held solely for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Please send appeals:

- Denouncing the crackdown on freedom of expression in Vietnam;
- Protesting the severe sentence recently handed down to Le Chi Quang;
- Expressing concern at the rapid deterioration in his health;
- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Le Chi Quang, Pham Hong Son, Nguyen Vu Binh, Bui Minh Quoc, Tran Van Khue and all other writers held solely for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Appeals to be sent to:

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Pham Quang Nghi, Minister of Culture and Information
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Please note that there are no fax numbers available for the Vietnamese authorities, so you may wish to ask the diplomatic representative for Vietnam in your country to forward your appeals. It would also be advantageous to ask your country’s diplomatic representatives in Vietnam to intervene in the case.

The Writers in Prison Committee consider the case of Le Chi Quang to be particularly appropriate for actions taken under the aegis of the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on 14 November. For further information on this case or on the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, please contact Sara Whyatt at International PEN WiPC, 9/10 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, London EC1M 7AT, U.K.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7253 3226, fax: +(0)20 7253 5711, email: sara@wipcpen.org.

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