Prison authorities in Vietnam have placed two prisoners of conscience in solitary confinement after alleging that the two were “rebelling against prison authorities” and “refusing to work” while incarcerated.
Nguyen Viet Dung and Phan Kim Khanh are both currently serving sentences at the same prison in Ha Nam province on similar charges.
Nguyen was arrested in September 2017 and charged with violating Article 88 of the 1999 Vietnamese Criminal Code for disseminating anti-state propaganda including posting an image of himself with the South Vietnamese flag on Facebook.
He was sentenced to seven years in prison in April 2018, but this was reduced to six years by an appellate court in August of that year.
Nguyen’s mother told RFA’s Vietnamese Service Monday that he was put in solitary confinement for “rebelling against [prison] authorities” and “refusing to work.”
“[He] says that he is innocent, therefore he should not have to work,” she said.
Nguyen’s mother said she visited him recently and he looked thinner, leading her to believe that he is not eating enough.
She also said that money that she sent to Nguyen was never received and was kept by the guards, adding that the last time he actually received money from his family was three months ago.
Phan, meanwhile, was placed in solitary confinement for allegedly “rebelling against prison authorities,” according to an update on the online Vietnamese Political Prisoner Database by The 88 Project, a group that supports and encourages freedom of expression in Vietnam.
He was arrested in March 2017 and charged with violating Article 88 of the 1999 Vietnamese Criminal Code for spreading “propaganda against the socialist state” due to his pro-democracy blogging activities.
He was sentenced to six years in prison and four years under surveillance.
According to Phan’s relatives, Phan had filed an appeal but prison authorities did not forward it to the court.
Elderly political prisoner released for poor health
A 72-year-old political prisoner has meanwhile had his jail term suspended for being in poor health.
Ngo Hao, who had been serving a 15-year prison term at An Diem prison in Quang Nam province, was released on Jan. 8.
Ngo’s son, Ngo Minh Tam told RFA Monday that Ngo had returned home on Jan. 9.
“The local authorities sent a notice to our family at 8 p.m., Jan. 9, saying that my father got sick, so the prison let him leave,” he said.
Ngo Minh Tam added that his father had abnormally high blood pressure and poor vision.
“My father’s eyes aren’t seeing properly, but my family cannot yet take him to the hospital for treatment because of the Lunar New Year holiday and the fact that he is in poor condition [and cannot easily travel],” he said.
Ngo was arrested in February 2013, and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “acting against the People’s government” under Article 79 of the 1999 Vietnamese Criminal Code.
In January 2019, Ngo’s family called for help as Mr. Ngo had a stroke at prison. They say he did not receive good treatment.
Communist Vietnam, where all media are state-controlled, does not tolerate dissent, and rights groups identify Article 79 and Article 88 as among a set of vague provisions that authorities have used to detain dozens of writers and bloggers.
Estimates of the number of prisoners of conscience now held in Vietnam’s jails vary widely, with Human Rights Watch putting the number in October 2019 at 138. The rights group Defend the Defenders meanwhile puts the number as at least 240, with 36 convicted in 2019 alone.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Eugene Whong.