A Vietnamese man jailed on a gambling charge died in custody on Friday three days after beginning a six-month prison term, with authorities saying he was beaten to death by fellow inmates, and family members vowing to seek justice.
Nguyen Quang Lap, 36, was arrested in February in a gambling case in southeastern Vietnam’s Ba Ria Vung Tau province and was sentenced with 11 other defendants by the Chau Duc District People’s Court to six months in jail.
He began serving his sentence on May 5 and was found dead three days later, family members said.
Police told Nguyen’s family that he had been attacked and beaten by other prisoners, Nguyen’s younger sister Huyen Dieu told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday.
“They said that his fellow inmates who had a conflict with him beat him with a cane, causing his death,” Huyen said, adding that her family doubts the account given by police of her brother’s death.
Relatives posted video and images on Facebook on Friday showing Nguyen’s body bearing multiple bruises.
Huyen said that a reporter from Vung Tao later confirmed the police report of the circumstances of Nguyen’s death, telling family members he had died from a beating by fellow prisoners. “But he didn’t show any document confirming this,” she said. “He only repeated what the police had said.”
Vung Tao police are now cooperating with the provincial procuracy and medical examiner’s office to conduct an autopsy and investigation into Nguyen’s death, state media said on Friday.
Also beaten in jail
Meanwhile, a political dissident awaiting trial in Ho Chi Minh City after participating in protests two years ago against controversial cybersecurity and special economic zone laws has recently been beaten and mistreated in jail, the man’s wife told RFA.
Le Quy Loc, a resident of the Son Tinh district in coastal Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province and member of the civil society organization Constitution Group, was arrested on Sept. 4, 2018 and charged with “disturbing security” under Article 118 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
“I’ve learned that my husband was continually beaten from April 24 until now, but my family has not received any official information about his case,” Le’s wife Nguyen Thi Diep told RFA on May 8, saying that she had heard of her husband’s mistreatment only from the relatives of other detainees.
“Police have not allowed me to meet my husband for the last two years, ever since his arrest,” she said, adding, “This is because we have no marriage certificate or household registration. Therefore, everything concerning my husband’s situation has to be handled through a lawyer.”
Police brutality is systemic in Vietnam, whose own Ministry of Public Security has admitted that 226 suspects and inmates died in police stations and detention facilities throughout the country between October 2010 and September 2014, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom and one of the best-known of Vietnam’s roughly 130 political prisoners before her release into exile in 2018, had documented 31 cases of mysterious deaths in police custody before being imprisoned for her online writings criticizing the government.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.