By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– A Vietnamese Christian rights lawyer and Protestant church leader has been attacked when he left his home in Hanoi following years of house arrest and imprisonment, activists have told BosNewsLife.
Nguyen Van Dai fears to leave his home following the attacked by “thugs” on March 5 and March 6, when his house arrest period had expired.
“On March 5, unidentified assailants threatened lawyer Dai outside his home. The following day, they attacked the building and destroying part of the [front] door”, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement.
“Dai called local police but received no assistance. Since the second incident on March 6, Dai’s home has been under constant surveillance by security officers and “thugs” who have behaved aggressively towards Dai and his family,” CSW added.
Dai’s troubles began in May 2007 when he was found guilty of “disseminating slanderous and libellous information against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88 of the country’s Penal Code. He was sentenced to five years in prison. The Christian was released in 2011 but placed under house arrest for four years.
As a lawyer and activist, Dai has provided legal advice and representation to Christians who claimed to have suffered violations of their right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as other victims of human rights violations.
The attacks against Dai, who is also known as a Protestant church leader, comes amid wider concerns over alleged government harassment of devoted Christians in the Communist-run nation.
“The continued harassment of Dai as a defender of human rights and religious freedom is another example of the government’s attempt to restrict the activities of those who seek to defend the right to freedom of religion or belief in Vietnam,” said CSW’s Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper.
The official said it also violated international rights agreements signed by Vietman.
This week the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, presented a report to UN Human Rights Council on his visit to Vietnam in 2014, in which he expressed concern that planned visits to three provinces could not be completed “owing to various interruptions.”
Bielefeldt said he had received credible reports that some individuals he wanted to meet had been “heavily surveilled, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police”.
The Special Rapporteur’s report identified “a number of serious problems” regarding religious freedom in Vietnam, including legal and administrative restrictions and a “generally dismissive, negative attitude towards the rights of minorities and individuals practising religions or beliefs that are not registered.”
While under house arrest, Dai was closely monitored by police and security agents, CSW confirmed.
In April 2013, he was reportedly prevented from meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Dan Baer when he visited Vietnam for the 17th US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
When a political officer from the Embassy tried to pick Dai up from his house that afternoon, security officers instructed ten elderly women to block the officer’s car. In addition, about 10 of Dai’s supporters were detained by security officers when they arrived to the scene. They were detained and questioned for five hours, activists said.
Vietnam has come international pressure to improve rights of Christians, but the government has consistently denied wrongdoing.