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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9587

Mr Danby asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in writing, on 11 August 2009:

(1)   Is the Australian Government aware that in June 2009 the Vietnamese Government arrested human rights lawyer, Mr Le Cong Dinh.

(2)   Is the Australian Government aware that Vietnamese Police have charged Mr Dinh under Article 88 of the Vietnam Criminal Code—‘conducting propaganda against the government’—which carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

(3)   Is the Australian Government aware that Vietnamese Government authorities have accused Mr Dinh of using his work as a defence lawyer for high-profile democracy and religious freedom activists to ‘propagandize against the regime and distort Vietnam’s constitution and laws’.

(4)   What is the Australian Government’s position in relation to the detention and arrest of Mr Dinh.

(5)   Has the Australian Government raised the issue of Mr Dinh’s arrest with the Vietnamese Government; if not, does it plan to do so.

Mr Stephen Smith (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   Yes.

(3)   Yes.

(4)   The Government is concerned about the implications of Mr Dinh’s arrest for freedom of expression and the right to legal representation in Vietnam.  The Government is also concerned about Vietnam’s ongoing use of the broadly framed Article 88 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code under which Mr Dinh and several other individuals of human rights concern have been charged.

(5)   The Australian Government made representations to the Government of Vietnam on 25 June 2009 regarding the arrest of Mr Le Cong Dinh, consistent with the position expressed in response to question 4.  The Government requested that Mr Dinh be afforded legal representation and visitation rights and requested that a representative from the Australian Embassy in Hanoi attend should the case be brought to trial.