An Phuoc prison inmates say cellmates are bullying them

Some claim prosecutors and the prison governor are trying to force them to plead guilty.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.02.14
An Phuoc prison inmates say cellmates are bullying them Prisoner of conscience Nguyen Duy Linh listening to prosecuters at the Ben Tre Provincial Police Investigation Security Agency on Sept. 14, 2021.
Dong Khoi Newspaper

Nguyen Duy Linh is being mentally tortured by fellow inmates at Binh Duong province’s notorious An Phuoc prison, the Facebook activist told his family.

Linh is serving a five-year sentence for alleged “propaganda against the state.” He told his wife, Nguyen Thi Tuyet his cellmate picked fights with him and told fellow inmates he was a communist informer.

She told RFA when her husband moved to the prison in August last year he was put in a cell with a political prisoner. After a short while he complained of intimidation and asked to change cells. In the new room things got worse.

“He is being attacked by three people. His cellmate is causing him trouble … not allowing him to sleep … fabricating stories,” Tuyet said after visiting him on Feb. 12.

Linh told her the cellmate threw things at him when he tried to rest and befriended political prisoners to try to spread rumors about him.

 “Linh is now  isolated. He [said his cellmate] told everyone he was a communist,” Tuyet said, adding that her husband gave her the prisoner’s name and asked her to inform guards.

She believes the cellmate was trying to provoke a reaction so Linh would break prison rules and be disciplined. However, she said the tactic didn’t work because the guards believed his cellmate was lying.

Linh said inmates told him they would send friends from outside prison to beat his wife. She wouldn’t give RFA their names, saying she hoped to meet them to try to resolve the conflict.

When asked if the supervisor was involved in the bullying and harassment of her husband, Tuyet said there was no evidence to support this. 

RFA called the prison many times to discuss Linh’s case but no one answered the phone.

Using prisoners to bully prisoners

Nguyen Duy Linh is not an isolated victim of physical and mental violence in An Phuoc prison.

Other dissidents claim the authorities deliberately manipulate prisoners to get them to attack others.

Pham Thi Lan, the wife of RFA blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy, posted on Facebook that her husband was being harassed by fellow inmates.

Other former inmates went even further. Tran Thanh Phuong and Doan Thi Hong said the prison superintendent had adopted a sophisticated repressive policy against inmates who refused to plead guilty.

They told RFA prisoners are offered reduced sentences, prison visits and gifts from their families in exchange for bullying other inmates.

Doan Thi Hong was sentenced to 30 months in prison for allegedly "disturbing security". She spent more than three months in detention at An Phuoc. She said, in order to avoid international criticism, officials did not overtly pick on prisoners of conscience but used others to carry out the work.

Hong said prisoners who reacted to bullying were disciplined. They were taken to an area full of inmates serving time for serious crimes where officers allowed those inmates to beat them.

"Those who work for cadres have to fabricate, slander, curse, insult people and possibly beat them," Hong told RFA.

Hong named and shamed her fellow inmates on her Facebook page but RFA was unable to verify her claims.

Tran Thanh Phuong spent more than a year in detention at An Phuoc.

“They take orders from the prosecutor's office to deal with people who don't plead guilty,” he said, adding that  if prisoners of conscience overreacted to their provocation, they would be disciplined.

The claims are backed up by Huynh Thi Ut, the mother of prisoner of conscience Tran Hoang Phuc who is serving a six-year sentence at An Phuoc.

“A group of about ten people accused Tran Hoang Phuc [and me] … of stealing money which was said to be sent to me for other prisoners of conscience," she said.

“They also accused [him] of giving gifts to newcomers to the prison and asking them to confess.”

Ut denied the accusations against her son and posted on Facebook a request to donors who paid money into her account to make the amounts public so she would be legally responsible if she stole the money.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn.

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