Prison authorities in Vietnam are refusing to send letters requesting a sentence appeal for democracy advocate and blogger Phan Kim Khanh, who is serving a six-year jail sentence for “spreading propaganda against the state.”
Speaking on Monday to RFA’s Vietnamese service by telephone, his sister Phan Thi Tran said her brother had attempted to send a letter to the court in the northern city of Thai Nguyen shortly after Tet (Lunar New Year, Feb. 5). The letter was a request for an update on an appeal he had attempted to file earlier.
An RFA story in February quoted Phan’s mother as saying he had sent an appeal to the court but got no answer. At the time Phan believed his mail was being sent out, but this appears not to be the case, based on the statement by his sister.
The 25-year-old student was arrested in March 2017 for “abusing rights to freedom and democracy to do harm to the state’s interests and those of organizations and individuals” and was sentenced to six years in jail and four years of probation.
Phan has complained about his treatment in prison.
“Before Tet, they let him call home once a month but they didn’t let him do it last month,” said Phan’s sister.
“When he last called our father went to visit him 2 days later. [My brother] told him that from now on he wouldn’t be allowed to call home and wouldn’t be able to see the family. He also won’t be allowed to get parcels from the family,” she said, adding, “I’m very worried that he might face some danger.”
Ha Huy Son, the lawyer who represented Phan during his Oct. 25 trial, thinks that Phan’s mail should be reaching the court.
“His family said he asked for an appeal but the prison’s authorities didn’t pass his letter to the court. I think they need to look into this,” said Ha.
The lawyer said any effort to take legal action in this case would have to be without him, however.
“According to Vietnamese law, after the trial, as a lawyer I can’t do anything,” he said.
Le Anh Hung
Meanwhile, jailed member of the online Brotherhood of Democracy advocacy group Le Anh Hung is continuing his resistance in prison. According to the Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database, he was arrested in July 2018 and is under pre-trial investigation for “abusing democratic freedoms.” He has refused to be treated as a prisoner prior to sentencing.
“[Prison authorities] told us he violated rules in prison by not wearing a uniform and refusing handcuffs. But my son told me that he hasn’t been tried so they [legally] can’t cuff him,” said Le’s mother, Tran Thi Niem.
Nguyen Vu Binh, an activist and blogger associated with RFA, said that on Le’s mother’s second visit, “he was in a prison uniform and handcuffed, because [prison authorities] said he would not be able to see his family.”
The U.S. has long criticized Vietnam for its human rights record, marked by the suppression of basic freedoms, media censorship, and repression of workers’ rights as well as its worsening record of arresting and imprisoning dissidents, bloggers and religious leaders.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, approximately 150 to 200 activists and bloggers are serving prison time in Vietnam simply for exercising their basic rights.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.