Release from prison in Vietnam:Human rights activist freed

After long negotiations, the Vietnamese human rights activist Nguyen Bac Truyen is released. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2018.

BERLIN taz | 2003.09.08

Vietnamese human rights activist Nguyen Bac Truyen was released from prison in Vietnam on Friday through mediation by the German government. He should arrive in Germany with his wife late Friday evening. A spokesman for the Foreign Office confirmed this to the taz and said: "We welcome the release of the civil rights activist. This is an important humanitarian gesture by the Hanoi government.”

According to reports, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) raised the case with her Vietnamese counterpart Bui Thanh Son during political talks in September 2022 in Berlin. Nguyen Bac Truyen is a religious and legal expert and, until his imprisonment, headed the Vietnam Political and Religious Prisoners Association, which supports non-violent imprisoned civil rights activists and their families.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison by the Hanoi People's Court in 2018 for "propaganda against the socialist state". His crime: He publicly advocated freedom of religion, freedom of expression and a pluralistic multi-party system. The 55-year-old belongs to the banned Buddhist religious community Hoa Hao, but as a lawyer he has also campaigned for the rights of members of the Catholic religion.

Criminal trial lasted only one day

In 2011 he received the Hellman/Hammett Award from the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch for his writings on political prisoners in Vietnam and their prison conditions. The 2018 criminal trial lasted just one day. "Originally, the trial was scheduled for two days," explained Gyde Jensen, member of the FDP Bundestag, on her website. Jensen exercised a parliamentary sponsorship for the human rights activist as part of the program “Parliamentarians protect parliamentarians”.

"The intention behind such short process times is to handle such cases quickly and with as little publicity as possible," says Jensen. The accused had only been informed of the date a few days before the trial opened, he had not had permanent access to a lawyer and had not known the indictment for a long time. "The conditions were very bad to prepare a defense."

In order to campaign for the freedom of her godfather, the FDP MP, who was then chairwoman of the human rights committee of the German Bundestag, had a conversation with the Vietnamese ambassador in Berlin in 2018. Jensen: "The official position was that anyone who didn't respect the law had to face the consequences. Unfortunately, this does not include freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”

Serious health problems after imprisonment

The 2018 conviction wasn't the first the man suffered. He had previously been imprisoned for political offenses between 2006 and 2010. Since then, he has suffered from back pain and gastrointestinal problems due to abuse and unsanitary water in detention. Between the two prison sentences, the man had worked for a Catholic religious community and had been beaten up several times by strangers. This is what happens to many dissidents in Vietnam. It is suspected that thugs from the Ministry of Security are behind them.



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