A trial judge in Vietnam’s Nha Trang City on Thursday ejected from her courtroom a defense attorney representing a lawyer who was charged with tax evasion after offering to represent a former blogger for Radio Free Asia.
Nguyen Duy Binh was dragged from the courtroom by police after attempting to raise points of order with Le Thi Hang, senior jurist on a panel of judges trying the case, Binh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an interview.
“My clients are lawyer Tran Vu Hai and [his wife] Ngo Tuyet Phuong,” Binh said. “It has been over 24 hours since they applied for permission for five more lawyers to represent them, but the panel of judges has not approved."
"I raised this as an issue in court but the judges would not let me speak,” he said.
After Binh turned to Phuong to confirm that it was her wish that the five lawyers be appointed, the judge “invited him” to leave the courtroom, he said.
“I told her I would leave, but I tried to raise two points in protest because, as the chief judge, she was violating the law by depriving me of my rights and by taking away my clients’ right to choose their own attorneys.”
Binh was then swarmed by police who seized him by his arms and pulled him from the courtroom, he said, adding that he pleaded with police to be allowed to remain on court property so he could file a formal protest with senior judicial officials.
“But they continued to hold me by my neck and arms and forced me into a car and drove me [away],” he said.
Nearly 60 lawyers in Vietnam have now applied to represent Tran Vu Hai, who was charged with tax evasion after he agreed to defend dissident blogger and former RFA contributor Truong Duy Nhat, who was abducted in Thailand in January and brought back to Vietnam by force.
Jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, Nhat now faces charges of “abusing his position” for his alleged involvement in a land-fraud case while serving as bureau chief at a newspaper in Danang city in the 1990s.
He has not yet been brought to trial.
According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam’s one-party communist government currently holds an estimated 138 political prisoners, including rights advocates and bloggers deemed threats to national security.
It also controls all media, censors the internet, and restricts basic freedoms of expression.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.