Catholic lawyer and human rights advocate arrested

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Vietnamese authorities arrested Paul Le Cong Dinh (pictured) on Saturday on charges of engaging in "propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam," state-run media reported on Sunday. The high-profile 41-year-old Catholic lawyer has defended a number of pro-democracy activists. He has also published accounts of the country’s flawed economic, social and political system.

State-run media reported that police found “documents distorting the country's socio-economic policies” in Mr Dinh’s home and office.

They have also accused him of libelling Vietnam’s top leaders and of “colluding with domestic and foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese state.’

Mr Dinh, who studied in France, has a Master's Degree in Law from Tulane University in Louisiana in the United States.

Back home he has defended leading human rights activists, such as fellow lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, who have also been jailed for anti-government activity.

For many Mr Dinh’s arrest is a sign that the Vietnamese government is no longer going to use kid gloves against its critics. It also represents a warning to anyone who might envisage questioning the authorities’ policies.