Vietnamese journalist Trang examined for health concerns in detention

Pham Doan Trang had written books criticizing Vietnam’s government and had spoken with Radio Free Asia and the BBC.
Vietnamese journalist Trang examined for health concerns in detention In a file photo, journalist Pham Doan Trang displays books she wrote that were banned by the Vietnamese government.
Facebook / Pham Doan Trang

Award-winning Vietnamese journalist and rights activist Pham Doan Trang has been examined for health problems suffered in detention following appeals made to authorities by her defense team, her lawyer said in a posting on Facebook this week.

Arrested in October 2020, Trang has been charged under Article 88 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code for disseminating anti-State propaganda according to an indictment made public on Oct. 18, more than a year after her arrest.

Authorities have now made two visits to examine Trang in prison, following petitions made by lawyers on Oct. 20 and 22 that she receive care for high blood pressure and other ailments, lawyer Le Van Luan wrote on Tuesday.

One examination revealed the presence of a small internal tumor, Luan added.

Trang, who has lost over 22 pounds in detention, also suffers from ovarian cysts and continuing pain in her legs, which were broken in an attack by police in 2015, Luan told RFA in an earlier report.

A scheduled trial date of Nov. 4 has now been postponed because prosecutors in the case are infected with COVID-19 and have been put under quarantine, Luan said.

No new date for the trial has been announced.

Author of a book on political engagement that angered authorities in Hanoi, Trang is a cofounder of Legal Initiatives for Vietnam, a California-based NGO that says its mission is "to build a democratic society in Vietnam through independent journalism, research, and education."

She also received the 2017 Homo Homini Award presented by the Czech human rights organization People in Need, and the Press Freedom Prize in 2019 from Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

More than 25 human rights groups called in a letter this week for Trang’s release from jail, calling her continued detention pending trial part of an ongoing assault on freedom of expression in the one-party communist state.

“The persecution of Doan Trang and other human rights defenders, including independent writers and journalists, is part of the worsening assault on the rights to freedom of expression and information in Vietnam,” said the letter’s signers, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders.

The indictment against Trang also accuses her of speaking with two foreign media outlets, Radio Free Asia and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “to allegedly defame the government of Vietnam and fabricate news,” the rights groups said.

Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent deteriorated sharply last year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists, publishers, and Facebook personalities as authorities continued to stifle critics in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party Congress in January. But arrests continue in 2021.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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