Efforts intensify to secure release of European activists in Laos


Yahoo news

Legal and diplomatic efforts to secure the release of a Euro-MP and four activists detained after mounting a pro-democracy protest in Laos have intensified.
A Lao lawyer acting for the five was due to submit a formal request for their immediate release, an aide to Euro MP Olivier Dupuis told AFP Friday.
The local lawyer was acting on instructions from French lawyer and fellow Euro-MP Francois Zimeray, who was named counsel for the activists Thursday, aide Martin Schulthes said.
Meanwhile the head of the European delegation in Bangkok, Klauspeter Schmallenbach, and Italian ambassador Stefano Starace Janfolla flew to Vientiane Friday to press for consular access to the detained activists, a delegation spokesman said.
The European Commission has made repeated calls for Laos' communist authorities to release Dupuis and four other members of his Radical Transnational Party -- a Russian and three Italians.
The five took part in an October 26 demonstration in the Lao capital to plead for "liberty, democracy and reconciliation". It was held on the second anniversary of a similar demonstration by students in 1999.
A Lao official said Thursday that the five would probably be deported within a fortnight, but only after being tried.
"First we have to apply our law, because what they have done is against articles 59 and 66 of the criminal code of the Laos PDR (People's Democratic Republic," said Bangkok embassy counsellor Phouangkeo Langsy.
The articles, which forbid "propaganda against the Laos PDR" and "creating agitation", carry a penalty of up to five years in jail, but the diplomat said the punishment was likely to be waived.
Dupuis and Schulthes were expelled from neighbouring Vietnam in June after they protested in Ho Chi Minh City against the detention of a leading religious dissident by the communist authorities there.
The MEP is a Belgian national even though he represents an Italian constituency.