International Community Called to Scrutinise Human Rights Trial in Vietnam

The international community has been called to scrutinise the trial of arrested Vietnamese human rights defenders, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, which is due to take place Friday 11 May 2007.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has said that international observers of Vietnam are predicting that the trial will be a sham, and that the verdict may already have been decided upon.

Christian lawyer Nguyen Van Dai is reportedly facing several accusations relating to his defence of religious freedom, including disseminating "alleged infractions of religious liberty [to Vietnam's enemies abroad]".

He has become a prominent human rights advocate, since defending the so-called 'Mennonite Six' in 2004-05. His colleague Le Thi Cong Nhan faces similar charges.

In violation of Vietnam's own legal process, the pair have been denied all access to a lawyer, and indictment documents have not been released to the next of kin.

Additionally, Dai's wife has not been allowed to visit her husband.

On 2 May, Tran Lam, the lawyer attempting to defend the pair, was finally accredited for the case. He was permitted to see the case documents for the first time, but only within the court.

The trial follows the sentencing of 60-year-old Catholic priest, Father Nguyen Van Ly, to eight years in prison for distributing "material harmful to the state", on 29 March 2007.

Father Van Ly was pictured being held down and gagged within the courtroom, CSW has reported.

These cases are the subject of House Resolution 243 in the United States Congress, which calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

CSW's Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert, said, "The world must urgently raise its voice against these cases. They represent a significant relapse for the Vietnamese government into its most repressive mode, and the imminent trial provides an urgent imperative for clear international attention.

"We condemn the arrests of these two lawyers for their defence of human rights, and urge the Vietnamese government to release them immediately."