Vietnamese activist forced to undergo mental health assessment while awaiting trial

Nguyen Thuy Hanh has been charged with disseminating materials against the state.
2022.01.24
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Vietnamese activist Nguyen Thuy Hanh holds a banner calling for the release of a prisoner of conscience during a protest in Hanoi, Vietnam, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thuy Hanh/Facebook

A well-known Vietnamese activist in Hanoi who raised money to support the families of jailed political prisoners before being arrested herself nearly 10 months ago was forced to undergo a month-long psychiatric evaluation while being held in pre-trial detention, her husband said Monday.

Nguyen Thuy Hanh, 58, who founded the 50k Fund to help pay for travel expenses for family members visiting prisoners in Vietnam, was arrested in April 2021 and charged with disseminating materials against the state, according to official media in the one-party communist state.

Before her arrest, Hanh was undergoing treatment for depression, Huynh Ngoc Chenh, Hanh’s husband, told RFA. But the reasons she was given a mental health evaluation aren’t clear, he said.

“They took her to a mental health hospital and kept her there for one month, from Dec. 7 to Jan. 7, for medical evaluation,” Huynh Ngoc Chenh, Hanh’s husband, told RFA. “I learned this information from some patients at the hospital. The investigation agency did not inform our family about this issue at all.”

At least four patients at National Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Hanoi called him about his wife’s psychiatric examination, and a contact at the hospital verified the information, Chenh wrote on a Facebook post.

Hanh’s family has not received any information about her health condition since her arrest, he added.

“She used to have serious depression, and I had to take her to the France-Vietnam International Hospital in Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City] and to a specialist for treatment,” Chenh said. “Thanks to this specialist, her health had improved a lot. However, I haven’t had any information about her health since she was arrested in April 2021.”

Authorities have not allowed Hanh’s defense lawyers to see his client, Chenh said.

“My wife had hired two law firms [to be her legal representatives] before she was arrested,” he said. “Their lawyers have registered to be her defense lawyers. However, the investigation agency said in cases related to national security, lawyers are not allowed to meet with their clients until the investigation is complete.”

Local government authorities froze Hanh’s Vietcombank account in 2020 after she raised about 500 million Vietnamese dong (U.S. $21,600) to support the family of Le Dinh Kinh. The elderly leader of the Dong Tam commune was killed during a police raid on Dong Tam amid a long-running land dispute that had landed many of his family members in jail.

Vietnamese authorities routinely order psychiatric evaluations of activists who oppose their detention for exercising their rights under Vietnam’s constitution. Other prominent detained Vietnamese, including land activist Trinh Ba Phuong, dissident writer Pham Thanh and blogger Le Anh Hung, also have been subjected to psychiatric exams.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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