Jailed Vietnamese Environmental Activist in Solitary After Cellmate Beat Him Unconscious

nguyen-ngoc-anh-1000 Environmental activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh stands trial at the People's Court of Ben Tre province, Vietnam on June 6, 2019.

Detained Vietnamese environmental activist Nguyen Ngoc Anh has been placed in solitary confinement after being beaten unconscious at the hands of his cellmate and refused treatment for his injuries, his wife said Friday, adding that he “fears for his life” in jail.

After visiting Anh at the Binh Phu Detention Center in Ben Tre’s Thanh Phu district on Friday morning, his wife, Nguyen Thi Chau, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that her husband was left with a limp following the attack.

“When I sat down, I saw my husband come out, but he could barely walk,” she said, adding that she had to hold back tears to ask him what had happened.

“My husband told me that last Friday, [prison authorities] invited [his cellmate], a convicted criminal, for a talk. When the [talk] was finished, he walked up to [my husband] pointing his finger at him and said, ‘I can kill you and I won’t have to [answer for it]. I will kill you this time.’”

Chau detailed her husband’s account of the fight that ensued.

“He jumped into the cell and threw a punch, but my husband was able to dodge,” she said.

“[My husband] turned around to grab a bath towel, but the criminal kicked him from behind. My husband fell and hit his head on the [concrete] bunk and he lost consciousness,” she said.

Chau said that after the fight, Anh requested medical attention, but prison authorities refused to help him.

“He was turned down [for medical attention]. They also didn’t arrest the guy that beat my husband, and escorted my husband to a separate cell, like for solitary confinement,” she said.

Anh, a shrimp farming engineer, was arrested in August 2018 in Ben Tre province for making politically charged posts on Facebook.

He was convicted in June 2019 on charges of “making, storing, spreading, and declaring transmitted information and documents to combat the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” according to Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Criminal Code. Anh has rejected the sentence and launched an appeal.

The environmental activist has reported trouble with his cellmate over the past few months, according to his wife.

Last month, Chau told RFA that Anh had detailed physical and mental abuse by his cellmate during an earlier visit, and that he had also been threatened with death.

She also claimed that prison authorities are pressuring her husband to plead guilty and give up his appeal, and that the abuse becomes increasingly severe each time he refuses.

Difficult conditions

Chau described the conditions of Anh’s cell in solitary confinement as extremely difficult, and said guards refuse him basic necessities.

“While he’s in there he doesn’t have [access to] boiled water, he can’t read newspapers, he isn’t allowed to watch TV, or listen to the radio,” she said, adding that the injuries he sustained in the recent attack made the situation nearly intolerable.

“While he was in pain, he was unable to walk or even clean himself. Today he was barely able to walk when we visited him. He said he could not eat, or sleep.”

Chau said that Anh “dare not speak out” about his treatment in prison, because “the more he said, the more difficult it will be for him.”

“He fears for his life,” she said. “I just want the international community and human rights organizations to protect and help save my husband. I need nothing more than that.”

No date has been set for Anh’s appeal trial, and authorities have so far refused him permission to meet with a lawyer.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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