Vietnam Imprisoned Pastor in Critical Situation, Placed in Solitary Cell since October Last Year
Defend the Defenders
February 11, 2017
Protestant pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, who has been placed in solitary cell in the Xuan Loc Prison in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai since October last year, is in critical health conditions, his wife Tran Thi Hong told Defend the Defenders on Saturday.
Mrs. Hong, a member of the Vietnam Women for Human Rights, said she visited him on Friday. After more than three months being kept in closed cell, her husband’s skin has deteriorated.
Pastor Chinh, who has been imprisoned since 2011, has a number of diseases, including acute nasal sinusitis, arthritis, high blood pressure and inflammation of the stomach, but received no medical treatment from the prison.
The prison authorities have not permitted him to receive medical drugs from his wife for these diseases, she said.
The pastor who has fought for religious freedom for ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands, told his wife that he has been supplied with only poor-quality rice without vegetables and meat for months.
In addition, the prison authorities have sent police officers to inspect his isolated cell regularly, and criminal inmates to curse him. They also handcuff him in the solitary cell as well as make surveillance during nights to terror him.
Mrs. Hong said his life is threatened if the prison authorities continue their inhuman treatment against her husband.
Pastor Chinh is a Gia Lai province-based Mennonite pastor who was arrested in April 2011. One year later, he was sentenced to 11 years in jail for “undermining the national unity policy” under Article 87 of the Penal Code. He was held in An Phuoc Prison, about 600 km from his family home and it takes 12 hours to reach, and transferred in Xuan Loc Prison in October last year as Vietnam’s authorities did not inform his family about the move.
Pastor Chinh is constant subject to torture and degrading treatment of prisons under the Ministry of Public Security as he refuses to confess his activities as wrongful.
When he was held in An Phuoc Prison, he was supplied food which was mixed with tiny glass particles and copper wire while the drinking water provided for prisoners of conscience had a strange smell so it may be intentionally contaminated with toxic chemical substances. In addition, the prison authorities encouraged and used criminal prisoners to beat prisoners of conscience who bravely speak out to protest inhumane treatment in the prison.
Chinh, who was accused of giving interviews to foreign media and joining with other dissidents in criticizing the government, is among 82 prisoners of conscience whom Amnesty International urged Vietnam’s government to release immediately and unconditionally.
While he is in prison, his wife has been harassed by the police in Pleiku city. In April-May last year, she was summoned to the local police station where police officers beat and interrogated her about her meeting with U.S. diplomats led by Ambassador at Large on International Religious Freedom David Saperstein in late March.
According to a report titled “Prisons Within Prisons: Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam” released in 2016, Amnesty International said the conditions in Vietnam’s prisons are harsh, with inadequate food and health care that falls short of the minimum requirements set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and other international standards.