An RFA blogger held in Vietnam for more than a year is set to go on trial on Feb. 28, but his lawyers will not attend, citing fears that both members of the defense team may not be allowed to enter the court, the lawyers say.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday, Dang Dinh Manh—a lawyer representing blogger Truong Duy Nhat—said he has now formally asked the court in Hanoi to postpone the trial because the second member of his team was never summoned to attend.
“Ngo Anh Tuan, my colleague in representing Truong Duy Nhat, and I have discussed how to defend our client at every stage of these proceedings. So now if I attend the trial alone, we will not be able to follow our plans as we had hoped,” Dang said.
“Therefore, I have requested that the trial be postponed. It will be wrong if the trial goes ahead against our client’s wishes,” Dang said, adding that he has not yet received a response to his request to put the trial on hold.
Also speaking to RFA, attorney Ngo Anh Tuan said he had never received an official notice setting a date for Truong’s trial and requiring him to be present.
“For this reason, I will not come to the court tomorrow, because they can now refuse to allow me in,” he said.
“If we are not present in court, the trial cannot take place unless Truong Duy Nhat agrees that it can go ahead without his lawyers being present, and I am sure that he won’t agree to this,” he said. “But if the trial is postponed, the court can announce a new date and they can then send us the authorizing documents.”
Truong Duy Nhat, a weekly contributor to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, disappeared in Bangkok in late January 2019 amid fears he had been seized by Vietnamese agents, and two months later was revealed to be under arrest in Hanoi.
Kidnapped in Thailand
Nhat, who had earlier been jailed in Vietnam from 2013 to 2015 for his writings criticizing Vietnam’s government, was charged by police investigators in July 2019 with “abusing his position” in a case involving the sale of public land at an eventual loss to the state of over VND $13 billion.
The new charge was filed after investigators failed to find sufficient evidence to convict him on an earlier charge of illegally acquiring property, his wife and a family friend told RFA in an earlier report.
“Truong Duy Nhat had already been charged with a serious crime, but now he is being prosecuted for another crime for which he could be sentenced to from 10 to 15 years in jail,” attorney Ngo Anh Tuan said.
Speaking to RFA, Truong’s daughter Truong Thuc Doan, now living in Canada, said she agrees with her father’s lawyers’ decision not to take part in the trial set for Friday.
“I believe that my father will ask that the trial be postponed, as both his lawyers won’t be allowed to be present. If the trial goes ahead anyway, this will be a violation of the law,” she said.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huynh Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.