Vietnam: Clampdown on dissent sees human rights activist facing prospect of the death penalty

Vietnam’s clampdown on political dissent – inspired by growing fears of a Middle East style uprising there – could see a renowned human rights activist face the death penalty.

Dr Nguyen Dan Que was arrested by the Ho Chi Minh City Police Investigation Agency on Saturday. In an official media report, the Vietnamese authorities described him as being caught “red-handed keeping and distributing documents” calling for the overthrow of the government. The police seized documents and a computer from his home.  

Article 79 in the national security section of the 1999 Penal Code provides for between five years and life imprisonment, or the death penalty for “overthrowing” the state.

Dr Que has spent most of his life working for human rights in the country. His endeavours have seen him imprisoned three times, and he has spent almost a total of 20 years in jail. Amnesty International believes he is a prisoner of conscience and has called for his immediate release.

Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director, said: “Amnesty International is shocked to learn that Nguyen Dan Que has been arrested yet again.

“Dr Que is a staunch and peaceful defender of human rights and free speech, for which he has paid a heavy price, including spending almost 20 years in prison.

“Media reports suggest that his arrest may be linked to a statement he made in the last week calling for people to rise up against the government, with a reference to the democracy movements in the Middle East and North Africa.

“It also seems to be no coincidence that his arrest comes on the same day that an article by Dr Que critical of the Vietnamese authorities’ position on human rights was published in the Washington Post.

“Dr Que has never used nor advocated violence. The authorities should immediately end its draconian attempts to stifle peaceful dissidents which have seen more than 20 activists jailed in the last 12 months.  Amnesty International calls for Dr Que's immediate release.”

Dr Que has been a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience on three previous occasions. He became an international member of Amnesty International in January 1990.

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