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Vietnam human rights lawyer disbarred following arrest on conspiracy charge

[JURIST] Vietnamese pro-democracy lawyer Le Cong Dinh was disbarred Monday from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar [professional association, in Vietnamese] following his recent arrest [JURIST report] for allegedly conspiring against the government. The Bar's disciplinary council concluded [Saigon Giai Phong report] that the prominent lawyer damaged the association's prestige, caused public discontent, and violated ethical requirements for legal practitioners. Dinh was vice president of the bar [Straits Times report] from 2005 to 2008 and may face dismissal as director of the association's Law Policy Research Center. Dinh was originally charged [Nhan Dan report] with "colluding with foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese State" for the alleged distribution of anti-government documents, in violation of Article 88 [text] of the Vietnamese penal code. According to state media, Dinh had become involved with the People's Action Party and the Democratic Party of Vietnam [party websites], allegedly planning to overthrow the Communist government. Authorities also claimed that Dinh and his cohorts wrote a new constitution for Vietnam to replace the current one. He has admitted to the charges [Saigon Giai Phong report] against him and has expressed regret for his actions.

The lawyer became well-known after defending Vietnamese interests in a catfish trade dispute [BBC report] with the US and has represented several pro-democracy and human rights advocates in the past, including other lawyers charged with subversion. Restrictions on expression have become a recurring issue in Vietnam. Earlier this year, two Vietnamese newspaper editors were dismissed from their jobs for protesting the arrests of two journalists [JURIST reports] who reported on government corruption. The arrested reporters, who were accused of 'abusing freedom and democracy,' were sentenced to two years of prison and "re-education" for reporting on the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST reports].

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