Vietnamese police arrest activist lawyer who sued prime minister over mining projects

HANOI, Vietnam — Police in southern Vietnam arrested an activist lawyer who recently sued the prime minister, accusing him of spreading propaganda against the state, his wife and uncle said Saturday.

Cu Huy Ha Vu, 53, was taken into custody in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday, accused of violating Article 88 of the Penal Code, said his wife Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, who runs a law firm in Hanoi.

Vu could face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.

Police raided Vu’s hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City and confiscated his laptop computer and cellphone, his uncle Cu Huy Chu said. They later searched Vu’s house in Hanoi and seized his desktop computer, Chu said.

Vu, who obtained a doctorate in law in France, is the son of Cu Huy Can, a famous poet and minister of agriculture in a government formed after revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France in 1945.

He is also a nephew of Xuan Dieu, one of Vietnam’s most renowned poets.

Last year, Vu irked authorities by suing Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for allegedly violating laws on environmental protection, national security and cultural heritage by approving Chinese-built bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands.

Court officials dismissed the lawsuit, saying they don’t have the authority to try the prime minister.

Last month, he again sued the prime minister over a decree that banned groups from filing petitions and complaints with the government, saying it violated a constitutional guarantee of the right to “gather, form groups and protest in conformity with the law.”

Over the past month, authorities have arrested three bloggers in an apparent crackdown on dissent ahead of a five-year Communist Party Congress scheduled in January.

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