Vietnamese Blogger Taken Back to Prison After Stay in Mental Hospital

vietnam-leanhhung2-042619.jpg Democracy activist Le Anh Hung (blue shirt) joins in a protest against the Taiwan-owned Formosa company, May 2015.

Prison authorities in Vietnam this week returned jailed Vietnamese blogger Le Anh Hung from a mental hospital, where he had been held for observation, to the prison where he is awaiting trial on a charge of “abusing democratic freedoms,” his lawyer said on Friday.

Speaking to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, attorney Nguyen Van Mieng said that authorities had said they wanted to watch Le’s behavior and to see “how he interacts with others, in order to monitor his delusions.”

“On April 24, they finished their observations and took him back to prison, but when I asked investigators for the results, they said they would send the report later,” Le's lawyer said, adding, “I think we should have that report very soon.”

Also speaking to RFA, Le’s mother Tran Thi Niem said she has not yet been able to meet with her son.

“They told me that he is in good health and behaves well, and though I asked them to let me see him, they told me to ask the commune and city police" Tran said.

"I talked to the city police, but they haven’t promised me that I can see him."

“I hope that they will let me see him soon,” she said.

Advocate for democracy

Le, a member of the online Brotherhood of Democracy advocacy group, was arrested in July 2018 for violating article 331 of Vietnam’s criminal code. If convicted he could serve up to seven years.

While in prison, Le had refused to wear prison uniforms or allow himself to be handcuffed on the rationale that prior to sentencing he should not be treated like a prisoner.

His mother told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in a phone interview on April 4 that her son had been taken to Central Mental Hospital 1 in Hanoi.

According to the Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database website, Le Anh Hung had previously been detained in a mental facility in 2013.

Nhân Dân (the official communist party newspaper) reported he was also detained in 2009 on slander charges in Quang Tri province, but was released when authorities concluded there was not enough evidence.

'Baseless charges'

Le, a longtime critic of the Vietnamese government, has worked for many media outlets including Voice of America, a U.S.-funded broadcaster.

Amnesty international called for his release immediately after his arrest in July, saying “Vietnam’s government cannot keep using baseless charges and the threat of prison as a means of gagging its critics."

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 by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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