Authorities in Vietnam released dissident blogger Nguyen Huu Vinh this week at the end of a five-year term served for posting politically sensitive writings online, sources said on Monday.
Vinh, who had been held in pre-trial detention for almost two years before being sentenced on March 23, 2016, for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state,” a vaguely worded provision in Vietnamese law frequently used to silence dissident voices.
He was released from Detention Center No. 5 in north-central Vietnam’s Thanh Hoa province on May 5.
Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on May 6, the day after his release, Vinh said that he was thankful for his time in prison, where he had “seen a lot, and fought a lot.”
“Thanks to support from my family, and to pressure from the outside and from the media, some changes have been made at Detention Center No. 5,” he said.
Before he was released, prison authorities had searched his cell for documents. Vinh said, adding that he had filled five notebooks with about a thousand pages of writing while in custody.
“I wrote every day,” Vinh said. “I wrote about everything. I also wrote poems.”
A few days before his prison term ended, two prison officials ordered him to collect everything he had written and put it all in a box and seal it, Vinh said.
“They said that this would then be sent to the National Security Department of the Ministry of Police, and they gave me a number where I could call them after my release.”
Challenged to produce an official order for the seizure of his papers, the officials refused, and later ordered the search of his room, Vinh said.
'Everything is in my head'
Police had earlier confiscated 78 pages of writing Vinh had hoped to present in evidence at his trial three years before, and had denied access to his writings to his lawyer, Tran Vu Hai, he said.
“But everything is in my head,” Vinh said.
“When I have time, I will write it all down again, because I want the public to know it all so that it can help other democracy activists in the future,” he said.
In a case that captured international attention, Vinh was sentenced on March 23, 2016 to five years in prison on for posts on his Ba Sam blog site that were critical of the government.
The former police officer better known as Anh Ba Sam was convicted on a charge of abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state under Article 258 of Vietnam’s penal code.
His assistant Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy was given three years in prison on the same charge. The two had been held in prison since their arrests in May 2014.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.