Jailed Vietnamese democracy advocate Tran Huynh Duy Thuc has launched a hunger strike, his third in the last two years, demanding that his 16-year sentence for subversion be reduced in line with a law enacted after he was sentenced, sources say.
Thuc, who was jailed in 2010 under Article 79 of the country’s penal code for writing online articles criticizing the Vietnamese government, began his strike three days ago at the No. 6 Detention Camp in Nghe An province, Tran’s brother Tran Huynh Duy Tran told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Oct. 13.
He is demanding that the charges against him of working to overthrow the government be seen instead as having involved “preparation to commit a crime,” an offense now calling only for a five-year term of imprisonment under Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.
“According to the 2015 Penal Code, the maximum penalty should be only five years in prison, but my brother has been serving his sentence now for more than 11 years,” Thuc’s brother Tran Huynh Duy Tan said. “Therefore, my brother must be released from prison.”
Thuc’s family and lawyers have tried several times to petition authorities for his sentence to be reduced in line with the provisions of the new law, Thuc’s brother said.
Their requests have not been met, though, and the family has now begun to push again for his release.
“Now we want to join with our brother in asking the court to re-consider his petition, and this is why he has been on hunger strike for the last three days,” Thuc’s brother said, adding that Thuc’s family has launched a Facebook campaign calling for support of their request.
Arrested in May 2009, Thuc is now serving a sentence on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. He was tried along with lawyer Le Cong Dinh, engineer Nguyen Tien Trung, and entrepreneur Le Thanh Long.
Thuc’s health in prison has been a continuing source of concern to his family following a hunger strike launched in July 2019 over poor conditions in detention, including the removal of electric fans from cells in the soaring summer heat, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
An earlier hunger strike in August 2018 left him exhausted and thin after he protested police pressure on him to admit his guilt to the offenses for which he was jailed.
Vietnam’s already low tolerance of dissent has deteriorated sharply this year with a spate of arrests of independent journalists and publishers, as well as Facebook personalities, in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party conference in January.
Estimates of the number of prisoners of conscience now held in Vietnam’s jails vary widely. Human Rights Watch says that authorities held 138 political prisoners as of October 2019, while rights group Defend the Defenders has suggested that at least 240 are in detention, with 36 convicted last year alone.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.