Interview: Vietnamese Human Rights Activist Le Quoc Quan upon his release from Prison
30 Jun 20150 comments
Human rights activist Le Quoc Quan upon his release: ‘I will go ahead, because I believe it is good for the people of Viet Nam.’
The Government of Viet Nam has long persecuted Le Quoc Quan for his human rights work. In 2007, after representing numerous victims of human rights violations, he was disbarred from practicing as a lawyer on suspicion of engaging in ‘activities to overthrow the regime’. He has been arrested several times for continuing his human rights advocacy. Following an attack by unknown assailants in August 2012, he was hospitalised. The attack was never investigated by the police.
Mr. Le Quoc Quan was arrested on 27 December 2012 on alleged charges of tax evasion, and sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and a fine of approximately USD 59,000. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned Mr. Le Quoc Quan’s detention as violating his right to freedom of expression and his right to a fair trial. It found that Mr. Le Quoc Quan had been targeted for his work as an activist and as a blogger and called for his immediate release. It also recommended that Viet Nam pay damages to him.
The Government of Viet Nam never responded to this decision. His imprisonment ended on 27 June 2015. He has served the full sentence of 30 months, without any deduction. The day after his release, he was interviewed.
You have been in prison for 2 and a half years. What was it like?
The first 1.5 years of my imprisonment were very difficult. The conditions were harsh. I was in a prison cell of 60 square meters with about 50 other persons. Among them were killers, robbers, people with severe diseases.
After the appeal hearing they took me to another prison, 850 kilometres away from Hanoi. The conditions were better there. I was there with 10 other prisoners of conscience. I shared a room of 20 square meters with one other prisoner. We had a toilet, water, access to newspapers and we were allowed to watch TV 3 hours per day. One channel only. The state channel of course. The food was really bad, but we were allowed to receive some supplies from our family, like noodles and cake. I refused to go to work, because I am innocent.
The process against me is a miscarriage of justice. My sentence is based on false accusations of tax evasion. I have been on hunger strike four times, because this is a miscarriage of justice. The fine of USD 59,000 is still outstanding. I do not want to pay, as I am innocent. The big question for me is what will happen if I do not pay. We don’t have enough money to pay anyway. I was afraid to be arrested again as soon as I was released. But they let me go. I am at home now. There were many supporters waiting for me at the airport, even people I never met before. Many people come to visit me at my home now.
Were you aware of the international support while you were in prison?
The first 2 years, I did not know that so many organizations were focussing on my case. Now, I am aware of the international attention, the letters to the Government of Viet Nam, the decision of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the fact that my case was raised by many foreign politicians.
I know that many people sent me Christmas cards last year, to my address in prison. I never received these Christmas cards. Maybe the wards of the prison collected them and put them on walls of their office. I am very thankful to the people who sent me these cards, because it makes the authorities realize that people all over the world care about my case.
Will you continue with blogging about human rights issues?
Of course! I will continue with doing what I believe is good for the Nation. I will be working for a better Viet Nam. Progress for our Nation is my goal. Yes, I am afraid that I will be arrested again. I try to overcome the fear. I will go ahead, because I believe it is good for the people of Viet Nam. I will not go abroad, I prefer to stay in Viet Nam. It is worth it, even if I devote my life.