A Vietnamese dissident suffering from terminal stomach cancer has received an amnesty from President Truong Tan Sang that permanently quashes his jail sentence, but his wife says it may do little to revive him from his death bed.
The amnesty grants permanent release to teacher and blogger Dinh Dang Dinh, 50, who was jailed on “anti-state” charges over his blog posts two and a half years ago and given a temporary suspension last month due to his severe illness.
Five district and provincial officials delivered President Sang’s order Friday morning to Dinh’s home in Dak Nong province’s Kien Duc district, where the dissident has gone to spend his last days.
“Dinh Dang Dinh from now on resumes all rights and responsibilities as a person who has finished his sentence,” said the order, signed by Sang on March 10.
But the amnesty, which international rights groups and foreign ambassadors had called for months ago, came too late to make much difference in Dinh’s chances of survival, his wife said.
“We would have been glad if we had gotten this amnesty order sooner, when he was first diagnosed, because we could have given him treatment sooner,” she told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“Now he is too weak,” she said.
Dinh has been cared for at home since March 16, when he left treatment at an oncology hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
He had been hospitalized since January, after being diagnosed with stomach cancer while serving a six-year prison term since 2011 for “conducting propaganda against the state.”
On February 15, his implementation of his prison sentence was suspended for 12 months, after repeated demands for his release from rights groups, his family, and U.S. and EU ambassadors to Vietnam.
Dang Thi Dinh said the family had been hoping for the amnesty for months.
“We sent our petition for his amnesty quite some time ago. We started the process after he was first diagnosed with the disease but they only gave us the order now,” she said.
The amnesty notice was delivered by two representatives from the Dak Nong provincial court and one each from the provincial prosecutor’s office, the Kien Duc town office, and the Kien Duc police, she said.
She had accepted the papers on Dinh’s behalf, she said, explaining that he was extremely weak.
“My husband is very sick now. He can’t eat, and he throws up blood all the time,” she said.
Arrested in October 2011, Dinh was sentenced in August 2012 to charges rights groups say Hanoi routinely uses to silence dissent.
A former high school chemistry teacher and army officer, Dinh had published online articles on government corruption and social and environmental issues, including a politically sensitive bauxite mining project given to a Chinese developer in central Vietnam.
Relatives called his sentence “a serious abuse of human rights,” saying he was jailed for “telling the truth” about issues of concern to Vietnam.
He was diagnosed while in the An Phuoc prison in Binh Duong province, where relatives said he was denied access to proper treatment.
While receiving treatment in the hospital he was kept under strict surveillance.
Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.