The whereabouts of a member of an online democracy advocacy group are unknown more than two weeks after his arrest on charges of attempting to topple the country’s one-party state, his wife told RFA's Vietnamese Service on Thursday.
Nguyen Bac Truyen, a former political prisoner and member of the online Brotherhood for Democracy group, was arrested July 30 by authorities in central Vietnam’s Quang Binh province in a way that his relatives described as a “kidnapping.”
Also taken into custody were Protestant pastor Nguyen Trung Ton, 45, engineer Pham Van Troi, 45, and journalist Truong Minh Duc, 57, according to a statement on the website of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security.
Truyen’s wife, Bui Thi Kim Phuong, told RFA that she sent several letters to authorities asking about her husband’s arrest and location, but to no avail.
“On July 31, I went to the police to ask about him, but they did not answer me. They just said that in the next few days they would send official documents to my house. I waited until August 4, but they did not respond. I sent a second paper August 14 and they haven’t gotten back to me yet,” Phuong said.
“I am very worried about his health and safety,” she added.
On August 16, Phuong went to Facebook to call on human rights organizations and democrats to help with her husband’s release.
The four men were charged with “carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration” under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code and could face the death penalty if convicted.
They have all served prior jail sentences for anti-state activities and were connected to lawyer Nguyen Van Dai, who helped to found the Brotherhood for Democracy in 2013 and was arrested in December 2015 on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code.
Human rights lawyer and also a former political prisoner Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha were arrested in December 2015 on charges of 'propaganda against the state' under article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code
Truyen, 49, was first arrested in 2006 for violating article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code and sentenced to four years in prison.
After his release, Truyen was routinely followed and harassed for his work.
“Whenever there is a gathering of civil society groups, plainclothes policemen are assigned to watch me, threaten me, and prevent me from going out,” Truyen told RFA in an earlier report.
“After I was freed from prison, they followed me 24 hours a day, but for the last two months they have only watched me from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.”
“However, they are very aggressive,” he said.
Despite the intimidation, Truyen continued working towards democracy and human rights for the Vietnamese, writing about fellow political prisoners and the hardships they face in their daily life.
He received the Hellman/Hammett Award from Human Rights Watch in 2011 for his “commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of persecution.”
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Lillian Andemicael.