Vietnamese authorities have transferred an environmental activist and blogger to a new prison far from home without notification to his wife, who traveled this week to his old jail in a fruitless attempt to see him, his wife says.
Speaking on Thursday to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Nguyen Thi Chau said she had traveled on Jan. 21 to see her husband, Nguyen Ngoc Anh--now serving a six-year term for criticizing Vietnam's government on Facebook--at his prison in Ben Tre province to visit and deliver food, but was told he wasn’t there.
“He had been transferred to another prison,” she said, adding, “I hadn’t been notified, and never received any announcements about the move.”
Returning later to the Ben Tre prison to ask for papers allowing her to see her husband at his new prison, Xuan Loc in Dong Nai province some 240 km away, Nguyen’s wife was told just to go there on her own, she said.
Finally speaking to her husband at Xuan Loc at 2:00 p.m. on Jan. 22, she learned that he had recently been abused by guards, who bent his arms behind his back and used their feet to shove him head-first to the floor, she said.
Nguyen Ngoc Anh, a shrimp farming engineer, was arrested in August 2018 in Ben Tre province on charges of “making, storing, spreading, and declaring transmitted information and documents to combat the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Criminal Code.
Writings by Nguyen described by authorities as slandering Vietnam’s one-party communist government and state included criticisms of the government’s handling of environmental damage resulting from a massive toxic waste spill in 2016 that left thousands without work in three coastal provinces.
He had also voiced concern for political prisoners held in Vietnam’s jails, rights groups said in earlier reports.
Death threats, beatings
Speaking to RFA in September, Nguyen’s wife described efforts by prison authorities in Ben Tre’s Binh Phu Detention Center to force him to drop an appeal of his sentence, saying he had been threatened with death and subjected to abuse by a cellmate, with abuse growing more severe as he continued to resist.
Nguyen was later placed in solitary confinement after being beaten unconscious and refused treatment for his injuries, his wife told RFA in October.
Vietnam, with a population of 92 million people, of which 55 million are estimated to be users of Facebook, has been consistently rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a U.S.-based watchdog group.
Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huynh Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.