Vietnamese authorities have charged a lawyer working for a magic circle firm with offences that carry the death sentence.

Le Cong Dinh, a commercial and arbitration lawyer, acts as a consultant for a major UK firm that has asked not to be named. Dinh also defends democracy, human rights and religious freedom activists and lawyers against state prosecution.

He was arrested in summer 2009 and charged with ‘conducting propaganda against the government’ – an offence that carries a sentence of up to 20 years. The Law Society has written to Vietnam’s minister of justice, Ha Hung Cuong, to remind him of Dinh’s rights under UN and other international agreements ratified by Vietnam. It is still waiting for a response.

In the meantime, fresh charges have been laid against Dinh, which could lead to the death penalty if he is convicted.

In a separate case, the Law Society has written to president Medvedev of the Russian Federation to add its voice to demands for an ‘impartial and thorough’ investigation into the death in prison of investment fund lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The lawyer, who died on 16 November 2009, had accused senior officials of stealing more than £146m in taxes owed to the government.