Political prisoners held in Vietnam’s An Diem prison have gone on hunger strike to demand the release from solitary confinement of RFA blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, who is being held in isolation after being beaten and choked by prison guards earlier this month, sources say.
Speaking on Thursday to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Hoang Nguyen--the younger brother of another An Diem prisoner Hoang Binh--said that his brother, political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen, and several others held at An Diem have refused to eat for almost two weeks.
“According to prison rules, when someone is placed in solitary confinement, the prison authorities must notify that person’s cellmates, but in this case they didn’t do that,” Nguyen said.
“And that led them to go on hunger strike to protest and try to get Nguyen Van Hoa released.”
“As of today, they have been on strike for 11 days,” he said.
Speaking to RFA by phone, Nguyen confirmed that his brother had witnessed the guards’ assault on Hoa in early May.
“Nguyen Van Hoa was beaten because he refused to sign a document prepared by a prison guard,” he said, adding, “He refused because some parts of the document weren’t clear, and because of this he received a lot of bruises on his body.”
Informed by Binh of the attack on her brother, Hoa’s sister went to An Diem on May 14 to see him but was not allowed by prison guards to visit, Binh told RFA in an earlier report.
Calls seeking comment from prison authorities rang unanswered Thursday.
'Abusing democratic freedoms'
Hoa, who had blogged and produced videos for RFA, was handed a seven-year jail term on Nov. 27, 2017 by a court in Nghe An province after using a drone to film protests outside a Taiwan-owned steel plant, whose spill of toxic waste the year before had left fishermen and tourism workers jobless in four coastal provinces.
Arrested on Jan. 11, 2017 for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” under Article 258 of the Penal Code, Hoa was later charged with “conducting propaganda against the state,” a more serious charge, under Article 88.
Vietnam now holds an estimated 128 prisoners of conscience, according to a May 13, 2019 report by rights group Amnesty International.
“The Vietnamese authorities portray individuals who are peacefully exercising their human rights as criminals,” Amnesty International (AI) said in its report, Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam.
“However, it is the government that flagrantly contravenes international human rights law and its own constitution,” AI said.
Nguyen Kim Binh of Vietnam Human Rights Network said in December that the one-party communist state is currently detaining more than 200 political prisoners.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in English by Richard Finney.