Dissident Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Tuong Thuy is seriously ill in detention ahead of his scheduled Jan. 5 trial, Nguyen’s wife said Thursday, citing the harsh conditions in which he is being held in close confinement.
Thuy, a former vice president of the Vietnam Independent Journalists Association who had blogged for RFA’s Vietnamese Service, is now “aching all over his body, especially on his left hand,” Thuy’s wife Pham Thi Lan told RFA.
“He is in so much pain,” Pham said, following a Thursday visit to Thuy at his detention center in Ho Chi Minh City by lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, who informed her of her husband’s condition.
“He now has scabies even though the detention center has provided him with some kind of medication,” she said, adding, “This is due to the conditions in the closed cell in which he has been jailed, which has only one ventilator that is covered with a wire mesh.”
Arrested in May, Thuy was indicted along with IJAVN members Pham Chi Dung and Le Huu Minh Tuan on Nov. 10 for “making, storing, and disseminating documents and materials for anti-state purposes” under Article 117 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.
The three could face between 10 to 20 years in jail if convicted.
Thuy, a 22-year military veteran, had written weblog commentaries on civil rights and freedom of speech for RFA’s Vietnamese Service for six years, and visited the United States in 2014 to testify before the House of Representatives on media freedom problems in Vietnam.
Thuy’s wife has been listed in a Dec. 15 court decision as a witness at his trial on Jan. 5, but has received no papers authorizing her to attend, and is worried she may not be allowed to enter the courtroom on that date, she said.
Hunger strike continues
Jailed Vietnamese democracy advocate Tran Huynh Duy Thuc will meanwhile reach the 40th day of a hunger strike on Saturday aimed at reducing his 16-year sentence for subversion to five years in line with recent revisions to the criminal code, Thuc’s elder sister told RFA this week.
Arrested in May 2009 for writing online articles criticizing Vietnam’s one-party communist state, Tran was convicted in 2010 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government under Article 79 of Vietnam’s 1999 Penal Code.
He is now calling for the charges against him to be changed to involvement in “preparations to commit a crime,” an offense calling only for a five-year term of imprisonment under Vietnam’s revised 2015 Penal Code, and Tran’s family and lawyers have petitioned authorities several times for his sentence to be reduced in line with the new law.
Family members have phoned the No. 6 Prison in Nghe An province’s Thanh Chuong district several times for news of Tran’s condition but have received no response so far, Tran’s sister named Lien said, adding that they may soon travel to the prison themselves to learn how he is.
Tran’s health in prison has been a continuing source of concern to his family following a series of hunger strikes, most recently in October, calling for a review of his case, and Lien said that Tran has vowed to continue his present strike until his demands are met or he feels he is endangering his health.
In July 2019, Tran began a hunger strike over poor conditions in detention, including the removal of electric fans from cells in the soaring summer heat, and an earlier strike in August 2018 left him exhausted and thin after he protested policy 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, publishers, Facebook personalities and other dissident voices in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party conference in January.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.