Jailed Vietnamese democracy advocate Tran Huynh Duy Thuc has been freed from round-the-clock isolation in his prison cell after going on a three-day hunger strike this month, family members say.
Thuc, who was jailed in 2010 for 16 years under Article 79 of the country’s penal code for writing online articles criticizing the Vietnamese government, launched his strike on July 1 after being kept locked in his cell in sweltering heat, Thuc’s sister told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Monday.
“The temperature in his cell kept getting worse during the day,” Tran Thi Dieu Lien told RFA following a family visit to Camp 6 of the detention center in Nghe An province two days before.
“And on July 3, the director of the detention center went down to solve the problem and stop the persecution, saying that Thuc could leave his cell for seven hours each day on Saturdays and Sundays, and Thuc ended his hunger strike after that agreement was reached,” she said.
Thuc vowed to go on hunger strike again if he and other inmates at the prison are not granted the rights allowed to them under Vietnamese law, Lien said, adding that letters between Thuc and his family have been blocked since the beginning of the year.
Thuc’s health has been a continuing source of concern to his family, with an earlier hunger strike in August 2018 leaving him exhausted and thin after he protested police pressure on him to admit his guilt to the offenses for which he was jailed, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
In June, at least four other prisoners in Nghe An’s Camp 6 went on hunger strike over poor conditions in detention, including the removal of electric fans from cells in the soaring summer heat.
The hunger strikers included jailed Brotherhood for Democracy member Truong Minh Duc, serving 13 years for subversion; Nguyen Van Tuc, arrested in Sept. 2017 and later handed a 13-year term for “activities aimed at overthrowing the state;” and Dao Quang Thuc, convicted on the same charge in Sept. 2018 and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Call for international help
Meanwhile, in an open letter signed by representatives of Vietnamese civil society organizations and published on June 28, the rights group Defend the Defenders called for an end to the “torture and maltreatment of prisoners in every prison across Vietnam,” pointing especially to conditions in Camp 6, where it said indoor temperatures had soared to more than 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Also, we urge international human rights organizations and democratic governments to raise [their] voices and take relevant actions to pressure the government of Vietnam to fulfill its human rights obligations,” the rights group, which is based outside Vietnam, said.
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.