A professor at the College of William & Mary Law School will donate time and advice to help a democracy activist being held in Vietnam.
Professor Linda Malone will serve as pro bono counsel for Nguyen Quoc Quan, an American citizen who is a member of the Viet Tan, a California-based organization also known as the Vietnam Reform Party.
Quan was arrested at Ho Chi Min City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport on April 17, and state-controlled media has reported he was charged with terrorist activities, including “attempting to overthrow the people’s government.”
Malone will serve as a legal advisor to Quan’s Vietnamese defense lawyers, and also is contacting Vietnamese authorities, as well as staff in the U.S. State Department, to fight for his release. Since his detention, Quan has had limited access to legal representation, she said, and noted he began a hunger strike on Nov. 19.
She also wants to help his wife and children, who live in California and have not been allowed to speak with him directly since he was taken into custody. Quan was previously arrested in 2007, after preparing a pro-democracy pamphlet about a non-violent approach to overcoming dictatorship. He served until May 2008, when he stood trial and was sentenced to six months in prison, but his sentence was waived as time served.
The American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights approached Malone to get involved. She said that so far, no trial date has been set for Quan.
“If there is a trial, it could be years,” Malone said of her involvement. “Our best scenario would be to have him immediately released. He’s been engaging in peaceful dissemination of information and advocacy of democratic reform.”
She said the U.S. State Department has publically called for his release, with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta making appeals to the Vietnamese government on his behalf. Now, the best thing is to bring more attention to his case to ignite a larger public outcry, Malone said.
Malone, the Marshall-Wythe Foundation Professor at the School of Law, serves on the board of directors for the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law. She previously served as co-counsel to Bosnia-Herzegovina in its genocide case against Serbia and Montenegro before the World Court, served as co-counsel to Paraguay in its challenge to the death penalty in Paraguay v. Virginia and served as co-counsel when Jose Padilla, a detainee held as an “unlawful combatant,” sought habeas corpus relief against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before the U.S. Supreme Court.
At W&M Law School, Malone is the founding director of the Human Security Law Center. The center was added in 2005 with the objective of creating citizen lawyers with an appreciation for national security issues. Through coursework, students are exposed to the “interplay between national defense and the protection of civil rights,” according to its website.