Vietnamese political prisoner moved to criminal cells, beaten by guards

Human rights activist Le Quy Loc had asked that political prisoners be allowed outside their cells to play sports.
Vietnamese political prisoner moved to criminal cells, beaten by guards Vietnamese political prisoner Le Quy Loc is shown in an undated photo.
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A Vietnamese man serving a prison term for his role in protests that rocked cities across the country four years ago was assaulted and beaten by as many as 11 prison guards after asking that political prisoners be allowed outside their cells to play sports, RFA has learned.

Le Quy Loc, a member of the civil society Constitution Group, was attacked in May 2021 at the An Phuoc detention center in the southern province of Binh Duong, according to a source with close knowledge of the case.

Loc had angered prison authorities by asking that political prisoners held at An Phuoc be allowed to play sports outside their cells on Saturday, a right guaranteed by Vietnamese criminal law.

“Instead of meeting his demand, though, detention center administrators punished him by transferring him to an area housing criminal prisoners, where he was later tortured by detention officers,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

The beating by guards left Loc with swelling and bruises to his face, and he went on hunger strike for eight days following the attack to protest the assault against him, the source added.

Calls to An Phuoc seeking comment on the case were answered by an automatic voice message saying the center’s phone line was under repair.

Speaking to RFA, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer asking for anonymity for security reasons said that the right of prisoners to play outdoor sports is protected by Vietnamese law.

“According to the Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments, prisoners have the right to protection of their lives and health. They are also entitled to participate in entertainment and sports, as well as in cultural and artistic activities.”

“Detention centers go against the law if they fail to meet these demands, so in this case the political prisoners’ request was legitimate and entirely reasonable,” he said.

And though detention center staff can transfer a prisoner at any time from one cell to another, moving political prisoners to cells used by dangerous criminals can be seen as an act of retaliation, the lawyer said. “It can also work as a deterrent to political prisoners who dare to demand their rights.”

Loc, a human rights advocate and resident of the Son Tinh district in central Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province, was arrested on Sept. 4, 2018, while traveling to take part in demonstrations to protest against proposed laws on cybersecurity and the granting of Special Economic Zones to foreign investors.

On July 31, 2020, the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City sentenced him to five years in prison on a charge of “disrupting or disturbing security” under Article 118 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, a vaguely defined provision widely criticized by rights groups for its use by Vietnamese authorities to stifle dissent in the one-party communist state.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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