Nguyen Van Dai

Current Status: Pre-trial detention

Photo of Nguyen Van Dai

Other Names: Nguyễn Văn Đài

Date of Birth: May 6, 1969

Gender: M

Religion: Christian (Protestant)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Lawyer

Latest Prison: B14 Detention Center, Hanoi

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights

Known Affiliations:

  • Bloc 8406
  • Brotherhood for Democracy
  • Vietnam Human Rights Centre

Arrest History

Arrest 1

March 5, 2007
May 11, 2007
4 years in prison
  • Art. 88
March 5, 2011
Defense Counsels: Tran Lam

Arrest 2

December 16, 2015
  • Art. 79
  • Art. 88


January 2018:

Dai's wife visited him in prison and reported that he has a strong resolve but is still in poor health. Read the "Physical Health History" section below for more details.

December 2017:

Nguyen Van Dai has spent almost two years in pre-trial detention and faces health issues from an injury sustained from an attack in December 2015 and from hepatitis B.

Dai is from Hung Yen province, near Hanoi. He is a pro-democracy human rights lawyer who has advocated for the legal rights of vulnerable populations in Vietnam.

Dai founded the Committee for Human Rights in Viet Nam (now Vietnam Human Rights Centre) in 2006. He also co-founded the Brotherhood for Democracy in 2013 and is a signatory to Bloc 8406. In April 2017, Dai was awarded the 2017 Human Rights prize from the German Association of Judges.

First arrest:

Dai was arrested in 2007 under Article 88 for "propaganda against the state," and was sentenced to five years in prison (reduced to four years on appeal) and four years probation.

Latest arrest:

Dai was arrested while attempting to meet with EU delegates for the annual EU-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in 2015. He was arrested along with his assistant, Le Thu Ha. He has been held in incommunicado pre-trial detention since his arrest, and his pre-trial investigation period has been extended several times, potentially prompting Dai to stage a hunger strike. On July 30, 2017, Dai was charged under Article 79 for subversion, making it unclear if his initial charge under Article 88 still stands. Dissident journalist Pham Doan Trang shared on her page that he and Nguyen Huu Vinh (aka Anh Ba Sam) have refused to be exiled in order to be freed from prison. His detention has been deemed arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Prior to arrest: Suffering from hepatistis B

December 2015:

Just days before his arrest, on December 6, 2015, Dai and several colleagues were attacked after delivering a human rights workshop. He still suffers from injuries sustained in that attack.

January 2018:
On January 29, Vu Minh Khanh, imprisoned human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai's wife, was able to briefly visit Dai in prison and speak with him through a glass screen. She reported back to Radio Free Asia that his resolve is strong, but his health is suffering in prison and he has not been allowed to secure his own lawyer. "The prison is designed in an evil way to torture the prisoners. It is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. He always has to suffer from such extremes. Besides that, the prison is very close to the highway, so that every night he has a hard time trying to sleep because the passing trucks make the whole building rumble and shake. They also do things like cut off the water to add additional indirect distress. My husband also suffers from constant intestinal pain, and I am worried because his skin seems to be getting darker and darker." 

May 2017:

Dai has only met with his wife twice since his arrest, and he has not been allowed to meet with his lawyer.

Dai is married. His wife, Vu Minh Khanh, travelled to the US in 2017 to advocate for her husband's release. She also testified on her husband's situation in front of a US government panel in 2016 ahead of then-President Obama's trip to Vietnam.

Contact us if you can assist. 

October 2016:

73 parliament members from 14 countries sent a letter to Vietnam's Prime Minister calling for Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thu Ha's release.

August 2017:

Activists honored Dai on his 600th day imprisoned on August 7 by staging protests of solidarity.

Dai's case has been taken on by several international human rights organizations and members of US and European governmental bodies.

The 88 Project's archives

Defend the Defender's archives

Front Line Defender's profile

Detained Vietnamese Human Rights Attorney to Receive Award For His Work, Radio Free Asia, April 4, 2017

Obama Must Insist on Release of Vietnamese Political Prisoners, TIME, May 22, 2016 

Profile last updated: 2018-02-04 19:25:03