Jailed Vietnamese RFA Blogger Refuses to Appeal Sentence, Destroys Petition Form

2021-01-29
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Jailed Vietnamese RFA Blogger Refuses to Appeal Sentence, Destroys Petition Form Vietnamese independent journalist Nguyen Tuong Thuy is shown on trial in Ho Chi Minh City, Jan. 5, 2021.
Reuters

A jailed Vietnamese blogger has refused to appeal his 11-year prison term imposed for writing articles criticizing Vietnam’s government, tearing up a petition form given to him after prison guards told him what to write on it, his lawyer says.

Nguyen Tuong Thuy, who had blogged on civil rights and freedom of speech issues for RFA’s Vietnamese Service for six years, was sentenced on Jan. 5, with two other independent journalists—like Thuy members of the Vietnam Independent Journalism Association—handed lengthy jail terms at the same time.

Arrested in May 2020, Thuy was indicted along with Pham Chi Dung and Le Huu Minh Tuan on Nov. 10 for “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Sentenced with Thuy, Pham Chi Dung was given a 15-year prison term, while Le Huu Minh Tuan was jailed for 11 years.

Only Le Huu Minh Tuan has filed a petition so far to appeal his sentence, with Thuy at first delaying a decision to appeal and then refusing after prison guards attempted to dictate the document’s wording, Thuy’s lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng told RFA on Friday.

“One week after the lower court’s trial, I met Nguyen Tuong Thuy at his detention camp, where he said he was considering whether or not he wanted to file an appeal, and I told him it would be good for him to do so,” Mieng said.

“Thuy also told me that conditions in the camp were so harsh that he wanted only to be allowed outside his cell to work, and not be locked up all the time,” he said. “I later learned that Nguyen Tuong Thuy had finally filed an appeal petition, but the police required him to fill it out according to their instructions, and he refused and tore the document up.”

Thuy and Pham Chi Dung, who has also not appealed his sentence, were then moved on Jan. 25 from detention in Ho Chi Minh City to work at the Bo La detention camp in Binh Duong province, Mieng said, adding that Thuy may possibly be moved again.

Also speaking to RFA on Jan. 29 Thuy’s wife Nguyen Thi Lan said that she had gone to see Thuy at the police detention camp in Ho Chi Minh City but was told by a guard that her husband had already been transferred.

She was not allowed to see Thuy at the Bo La camp because of concerns over a possible spread of COVID-19, though, and left gifts and money for him to use, she said.

Family visit denied

Hoang Duc Binh, a longtime labor and environmental activist held in Quang Nam  province’s An Diem detention camp, has meanwhile again been denied family visits, Binh’s younger brother said on Jan. 29.

“This morning, I submitted my papers and visit request to the prison officials at An Diem, and after waiting for over 30 minutes I was told I could not see my brother,” Hoang Nguyen said.

“They wrote in my visit book that I had violated prison camp regulations, but didn’t explain to me what those violations were, and that I could therefore not visit with my brother. They also gave back some traditional medicines that I had sent to him in the mail,” he said.

Binh had previously been refused family visits by prison authorities angered by his insistence on his innocence and refusal to wear a prison uniform, with relatives turned away by prison officials on Nov. 24, 2020, family sources told RFA in earlier reports

A longtime activist, Binh was arrested on May 15, 2017, by police officers who dragged him from his care more than a year after he had taken part in protests over the government’s response to a waste spill in Vietnam the year before by the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant.

The spill killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen jobless in four coastal provinces

Binh was later handed a 14-year prison term in February 2018 for “abusing democratic freedoms” and “obstructing officials in the performance of their duties” under Articles 257 and 258 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, and in July 2018 he was transferred to the An Diem Prison in Quang Nam, some 300 miles away from his home province of Nghe An.

Citing ill health behind bars, he has since petitioned to be moved back to a detention facility closer to his home.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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