Political prisoners in Vietnam’s Prison No. 6 face threats from inmates
The four prisoners include prominent rights lawyer Dang Dinh Bach.
RFA | 2023.09.01
Inmates of Vietnam’s notoriously harsh Prison No. 6 in Nghe An province threatened four prisoners of conscience including lawyer Dang Dinh Bach, his wife told Radio Free Asia Friday.
Bach was director of the Center for Legal Studies & Policy for Sustainable Development before being arrested in June 2021 on charges of “tax evasion” for a grant received from an overseas body.
He was arrested in July 2021 and later sentenced to five years in prison.
Bach’s wife Tran Phuong Thao told RFA that her husband reported the news during a phone call home on Thursday. He told her that a group of men dressed as prisoners entered his cell at night shouting threats.
“Bach requested my family to immediately find an international law firm in Vietnam, an international legal entity to stand up for him because he said his legitimate rights and interests are being violated. Which means he needs a lawyer to go to jail to see him,” his wife said.
Another political prisoner, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, reported a similar experience.
Thuc, 57, has been imprisoned since 2009 and is serving a 16-year prison sentence for “activities aimed at overthrowing the government” for his activities promoting democracy and human rights.
His family received a phone call from him on Thursday which they recorded and shared with RFA Vietnamese.
“We are very worried because last Friday someone came in with a knife and threatened us. It’s very serious, very serious,” he said.
Then Thuc stopped speaking and the next thing his family heard was: “My call was just three minutes, I don’t agree! I disagree! No, no, I disagree! I disagree!” Then the call ended.
Thuc also asked his family to bring a lawyer to the prison.
He also asked them to contact the prison warden and ask him to take steps to ensure political prisoners’ safety.
Thuc and Bach’s families spoke to each other on Thursday afternoon to discuss what to do next.
When RFA called the prison, nobody answered.
Since his arrest and after his conviction in January 2022, Bach has repeatedly gone on hunger strike to protest his arbitrary detention and unfair convictions.
His wife said from Aug. 8 to 25, he did not take the food provided by the prison to protest that staff had not delivered his letter to President Vo Van Thuong. They also failed to send poems and letters to his wife, and confiscated items including reading lamps, battery chargers and a bottle of balsam oil.
At the end of May, a group of six special rapporteurs from the human rights mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council sent a joint letter to the Vietnamese government, expressing their concerns about the harassment of Bach and his family.
Thuc has also been on hunger strikes several times to protest inhumane treatment by the warden and prison guards.
In August, he refused relatives visits and some food and essentials such as medicine, batteries and household health supplies. This was a protest against confiscation of his medicine in July after he demanded early release.
The two families said they were very concerned for the lives and safety of the two activists and two other inmates. They plan to go to the detention center next Tuesday to ask for an explanation of the incident.
The families also appealed to the domestic and international community to pay attention to the situation of the four activists in Prison No. 6 and to speak up to protect them.
Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.