[JURIST] Prominent Vietnamese pro-democracy lawyer Le Cong Dinh was arrested Saturday by Vietnam forces for allegedly conspiring against the government, according to state media. Dinh was charged [Nhan Dan report] with "colluding with foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese State," in violation of Article 88 [text] of the Vietnamese penal code, for the alleged distribution of anti-government documents. The penal code provides that such a violation can be punishable by three to 12 years imprisonment. The government has accused Dinh of publishing documents [Thanh Niem report] that distorted the laws of the Communist Party and the state, calling for a change in leadership, and libeling current leaders including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung [BBC profile]. 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 in the year 2010. Authorities additionally claim that Dinh and his cohorts wrote a new constitution for the country to replace the current one.
Dinh, who became well-known after defending Vietnamese interests in a catfish trade dispute [BBC report] with the US, 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].