Tue, 23 Jul 2019

The wife of a jailed Vietnamese activist has petitioned authorities in Nghe An province to restore the rights of democracy advocates held in a local prison, asking that prison officials end what she called their persecution of the men and resolve their complaints over conditions behind bars, sources say.

Prisoners are now routinely deprived of their rights at Nghe An's No. 6 Prison, Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh wrote in a letter sent to authorities and posted separately to her Facebook page following a June 20 visit to her husband, jailed Brotherhood for Democracy member Truong Minh Duc.

Despite soaring summer temperatures, electric fans have been removed from the prison's Camp 2, leaving prisoners stifling in the heat, Thanh said her husband told her during a visit scheduled to last an hour but cut short by guards to 30 minutes.

And a 10-day hunger strike launched by her husband and other inmates to press for answers to their complaints has left Duc, now serving a 13-year prison term, and others weak and exhausted, with her husband's strength so depleted that he could not even carry a bag of food she had brought for him, she said.

Also weakened by the hunger strike were Nguyen Van Tuc, arrested in Sept. 2017 and later handed a 13-year term for "activities aimed at overthrowing the state," and Dao Quang Thuc, convicted on the same charge in Sept. 2018 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, Thanh said.

Attempt to organize punished

Prison authorities in northern Vietnam's Ha Nam province have meanwhile punished democracy activist Le Dinh Luong for attempting to organize other prisoners to sign a petition calling for an end to the violation of their rights at Nam Ha Prison, a U.S.-based Vietnamese political organization said on Tuesday.

"According to his daughter-in-law, Le Dinh Luong has been prevented from making phone calls to his family and purchasing any additional food in prison," the opposition group Viet Tan said in a June 25 statement.

Luong, now serving a 20-year prison term for "activities aimed at overthrowing the state," is being denied books and food sent by his family, and "authorities have also refused his requests for a Bible and to see a priest," Viet Tan said.

Luong's family has attempted without success to appeal to the deputy prison warden at Nam Ha to have his rights restored, the group added.

Lawmaker calls for release

Meanwhile, A U.S. lawmaker called for the immediate and unconditional release of U.S. citizen Michael Nguyen, who was sentenced by a Vietnamese court on Monday to 12 years in prison following his conviction in a half-day trial of "activities aimed at overthrowing the state."

Nguyen, who had been held without access to lawyers after disappearing on July 6, 2018 while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam, will be deported after his sentence has been served, sources told RFA in an earlier report.

"The facts of [this] case are simple," Alan Lowenthal, a California representative to the U.S. Congress, wrote in a June 24 statement.

"An American citizen, Michael Nguyen, was convicted by the communist Vietnamese government in the hope it would deter other Vietnamese Americans from visiting Vietnam and exposing the Vietnamese people to 'radical' ideas like democracy, freedom, and human rights," Lowenthal wrote.

In a case described by one defense attorney at Nguyen's trial as a sham, government authorities had accused the California resident and father of four of joining a previously unknown group to help incite protests that erupted across Vietnam on June 10 in opposition to two controversial bills, one regarding special economic zones (SEZ) and the other concerning cybersecurity.

"Michael Nguyen is innocent and the Vietnamese government's lack of any kind of substantial evidence that Michael committed a crime proves it," Lowenthal said in his June 24 statement.

"I call on the Vietnamese government to withdraw this farcical conviction, and immediately and unconditionally release Michael so he can return to the U.S. and his family."

Vietnam now holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May 13, 2019 report by rights group Amnesty International.

Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network said in December that the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political prisoners.

Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Copyright © 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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