A group of foreign ambassadors have called on the Vietnamese government to release a jailed dissident blogger amid concerns from his family that he is being denied access to proper treatment while dying of cancer.
Dinh Dang Dinh, a democracy activist, is suffering from advanced stages of stomach cancer while serving a six-year sentence for “anti-state propaganda,” according to his family.
The letter sent Thursday to Vietnam’s foreign minister by the ambassadors of the U.S., EU, and other foreign missions in the country urged that Dinh be freed on humanitarian grounds “so he can spend his remaining time at home or if necessary in a hospital,” the Associated Press said in a report.
Dinh’s daughter Dinh Phuong Thao said she hoped the letter would help secure the release of her father or at least get him better treatment.
“We are very glad about this and we hope that things will work out,” she told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Friday.
“But everything still depends on the government.”
'He may not live much longer'
Dinh’s family has called repeatedly for his release, saying he has been denied access to proper treatment while serving his sentence at the An Phuoc Prison in southern Vietnam’s Binh Duong province.
In an open letter to Vietnam’s leaders and international organizations last month, his wife Dang Thi Dinh said he was “in the last stages of stomach cancer due to a lack of an immediate diagnosis and treatment.”
After a round of chemotherapy at a hospital last month, he was “sent back to prison without any word from the doctors” while still weak from the side effects of the treatment, Dang said, adding that a second course of treatment had later also left him seriously frail.
Neither session was arranged in accordance with formal treatment guidelines, and the prison has taken away Dinh’s medicine, including supplements, she said.
“We are very upset about the heartless attitude of his doctors and the systematically merciless treatment of treatment of the government,” she said, saying she believed he was being denied proper care because of his status as a political prisoner.
“He may not live much longer, but for the sake of human conscience, please save Dinh Dang Dinh,” she said.
Dinh was sentenced in August 2012 to a six-year prison term for “conducting propaganda against the state” in his blog posts on charges rights groups say Hanoi routinely uses to silence dissent.
A former high school chemistry teacher and army officer, Dinh, 50, had published online articles on government corruption and on social and environmental issues, including an environmentally sensitive bauxite mining project given to a Chinese developer in central Vietnam.
Dinh’s wife called his sentence “a serious abuse of human rights,” saying he had been jailed for “telling the truth” about issues of concern to Vietnam.
She said her family had submitted a petition asking that Dinh’s sentence be suspended because of his illness based on provisions in Article 51 of Vietnam’s penal code, but that prison authorities rejected the appeal.
“On Nov. 13, we sent another letter asking for his suspension based on Articles 61 and 62 of the penal code, but have still received no response,” she said.
The call by the Western ambassadors for Dinh’s release comes on the heels of a visit to Hanoi by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who discussed concerns about the country’s rights record in a meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh.
Kerry told reporters he had raised individual cases of abuse, but gave no further details, according to Reuters news agency.
Reported by Thanh Truc for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.