A Vietnamese pastor and democracy advocate held in custody since last July is in failing health in jail, with injuries suffered in a beating last year still not fully healed, the man’s wife says.
Nguyen Trung Ton was arrested on July 30, 2018, in a roundup of members of an online democracy group, the Brotherhood for Democracy, and is currently being held in a detention center in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.
Ton, who is still waiting to be tried, is in constant pain from his injuries, his wife Nguyen Thi Lanh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an interview.
“His right leg still hurts from his previous surgery, while his left leg has not yet been treated and his vision is blurry,” Lanh said. “He is still seriously injured.”
“I just want his [investigation] file to be completed and sent to the court, and for his lawyer to ask permission for him to be treated at the Thanh Hoa provincial hospital where he had his surgery before,” she said.
“He was watched by police and beaten, and now he’s being charged with violating Article 79 [of Vietnam’s Penal Code, related to ‘activities aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration’], Lanh said.
“All of this is so unjust,” she said.
In February 2017, Ton was abducted by unknown assailants and taken to a forest in a mountainous area of Ha Tinh province, where he was beaten in an hours-long ordeal leaving him with a torn ligament and crushed leg muscles.
Later arrested by Vietnamese security officers because of his online advocacy of democracy in the one-party communist state, Ton was accused of plotting to overthrow the government and charged under Article 79.
Taken into custody at around the same time were fellow Brotherhood for Democracy members Nguyen Van Tuc, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Bac Truyen, according to information provided by relatives and the website of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security.
A sixth member of the group, human rights attorney and activist Nguyen Van Dai, was jailed earlier, and in May received an award in absentia from the German Association of Judges, the Deutscher Richterbund, honoring him for his work in human rights.
Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 79 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.