About four months ago dozens of Vietnamese police arrested dissident lawyer Nguyen Van Dai as he was on his way to meet with representatives of the European Union, which had just held a bilateral dialogue with Vietnam in Hanoi on human rights. The arrest on charges of “propaganda against the state” came a week after masked assailants beat him in what he called a reprisal for educating members of the public about their human rights. Nguyen founded the Committee for Human Rights in Vietnam, which trains human rights attorneys and promotes legal education.
Since his imprisonment, his wife Vu Minh Khanh has been pushing authorities to remember her husband and his cause. While in the United States she is expected to meet with lawmakers, officials at the State Department and media outlets. She talked with RFA’s Chan Nhu after she landed in Los Angeles on April 15.
RFA: What is going on with Nguyen Van Dai’s situation? Do you have any more information since his arrest last year?
Vu Minh Khanh: He’s been in isolation since his arrest, meaning he is not allowed to meet with his family or lawyer. We, therefore, do not know about his health. The situation has not improved at all, even though I know that many international organizations have demanded his release. They also demanded a stop to the isolation and to allow him to have access to the Bible, but things have not changed. We have not heard anything about him, and we still have not been able to send a Bible in for him.
RFA: In this trip you will have many opportunities to meet with human rights organizations and members of the U.S. Congress. What would you tell them, and what do you expect from this trip?
Vu Minh Khanh: I will try to call for their support to help free Dai. I will also meet with the media, radio, TV, newspapers and diplomats in different states and the U.S. Congress. I will also go to Canada, Australia and Europe to do the campaign. I wish that each and every one will contribute to this cause. Freeing Dai also means campaigning for an improvement in human rights in Vietnam because Dai is a symbol for generations who fight for human rights. Many organizations both inside and outside Vietnam have raised their voice about his case. I would like very much for everybody to help and support Dai, which also means support for human rights in Vietnam. I will try to campaign for that.
RFA: Did you have any difficulty in this trip?
Vu Minh Khanh: Coming here is a sensitive matter, and I had to think carefully. I can’t describe it all. Maybe I will say it when I return to Vietnam.
RFA: I must be difficult with him in jail. Do you have any specific concerns about him?
I would like to call for more attention to Dai’s case because he’s been in custody for four months. We have not heard anything about him. Before his arrest, he had been beaten brutally by the police and he had not fully recovered before the arrest. He has hepatitis B but his condition was stable and he did not have to use medication. We are wondering about his health in custody. We are very worried.
RFA: Is there a first step?
At the moment, I’m very worried. Saying this, I would like to call for support from all people who care about this case, to raise their voice to call for his release. But first of all we have to fight to stop the isolation so we can see him and his lawyer can see him. That is what I want.