In a letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam, the National Endowment for Democracy has expressed its deep concern over the Dec. 27 arrest of prominent human rights lawyer and blogger Lê Quốc Quân in Vietnam. Quân, who was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow(2006-2007) at NED in Washington, DC, has written extensively on human rights abuses in Vietnam and has been detained by authorities multiple times on account of his pro-democracy views.
This is the full text of NED President Carl Gershman’s letter to the Prime Minister of Vietnam:
January 4, 2013
His Excellency Nguyễn Tấn Dũng
Số 1 Hoàng Hoa Thám
Ba đình, Hà Nội, Viet Nam
As President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world, I am writing to express deep concern regarding the December 27 arrest of blogger and lawyer Lê Quốc Quân.
The NED was troubled to learn of Quân’s recent detention on allegations of tax evasion. In the absence of a prompt and fair trial on this charge, it will be hard to avoid the conclusion that this is just the latest incident in a years-long campaign of political intimidation, harassment, and detention imposed upon Quân and his family. The facts speak for themselves: two months ago Quân’s brother, Lê Đình Quản, was arrested for tax evasion; his cousin, Nguyễn Thị Oanh, was arrested just last month. In March 2007, Quân himself was held for nearly four months, and he was detained again in April 2011.
Knowing of Quân’s connection with NED, there have been many persons in the US government, Congress, and private sector in Washington who have contacted us to share their very serious concerns about Quân’s treatment. I expect that these concerns will continue to grow and raise serious issues in ongoing engagement with Hanoi in many areas. During his fellowship at NED in 2006, Quân pursued independent research on civil society. He impressed all who met him with his integrity, passion for assisting the poor, and commitment to assisting Vietnam’s growth and development. Throughout his fellowship, Quân was an outstanding representative of Vietnam and its people, winning many friends and bringing great credit to his country. The National Endowment for Democracy is honored to have hosted him.
If government prosecutors plan to pursue the tax evasion charge against Quân, I ask that he be given every opportunity to prepare a defense. The judicial proceedings against him, his brother and cousin should be prompt, transparent and fully in accord with international fair trial standards. We believe that continued mistreatment of Quân and his family cannot fail to bring serious harm to Vietnam’s image and prospects for future friendly relations with governments and peoples around the world.
We look forward to your response.
Cc: Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1233 20th Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington DC, 20036