Letter to Secretary Clinton from relatives of Vietnamese prisoners

10 11 2009

Thu gui ClintonRe: Request for the U.S. State Department to intervene on behalf of prisoners of conscience during the Human Rights Dialogue with Vietnam

Vietnam – November 6, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
United States Secretary of State

Dear Madame Secretary:

We have been informed that the United States and Vietnam will hold a human rights dialogue in Washington D.C. on November 9, 2009.

At this meeting, we hope you will call on the Government of Vietnam to release all prisoners of conscience, including our relatives who have been arbitrarily arrested and unjustly convicted.

1/ The nine individuals who faced trials from October 6-9, 2009 include:

  • Poet Tran Duc Thach, sentenced to 3 years in prison and 3 years probation.
  • Teacher Vu Hung, sentenced to 3 years in prison and 3 years probation.
  • Engineer Pham Van Troi, sentenced to 4 years in prison and 4 years probation.
  • Writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, sentenced to 6 years in prison and 3 years probation.
  • University student Ngo Quynh, sentenced to 3 years in prison and 3 years probation.
  • Mr. Nguyen Van Tinh, sentenced to 3 years 6 months in prison and 3 years probation.
  • Mr. Nguyen Manh Son, sentenced to 3 years 6 months in prison and 3 years probation.
  • Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc, sentenced to 4 years in prison and 3 years probation.
  • Mr. Nguyen Kim Nhan, sentenced to 2 years in prison and 2 years probation.

These are patriotic citizens who have campaigned peacefully for freedom, democracy and human rights for Vietnam—rights clearly spelled out in the Vietnamese constitution. Yet they were jailed, trialed, and treated in an inhumane manner.

Since their arrest and during the trials, they protested the baseless charges of the Vietnamese communist government and court. All have agreed to appeal the sentences and to condemn the unjust convictions.

As part of his protest, teacher Vu Hung, currently held at Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi, has waged a continuous hunger strike since he was brought to court on October 7th. On November 6th, his family was permitted to visit and was told that his weight had fallen to 30 kilograms. Although prison guards carry him and his health has been significantly weakened, he is determined to continue the hunger strike to protest the conviction and affirm his innocence. He intends on continuing the strike for 100 days. It is unclear how his health will hold out.

Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc, held at prison camp B14 in Hanoi, currently suffers from severe back-pain causing numbness to both arms. He has heart pains and hemorrhoids leading to loss of blood. His family is deeply concerned for his health but have not been allowed to visit him or receive any information on his condition since October 11, 2009.

2/ In addition to the nine individuals who were recently trialed, we raise the case of novelist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy. Because of her support for these democracy activists, security police stopped her from attending the trial in Hai Phong and later staged an assault in which she was arrested for assaulting another person. She was arrested on October 8 and is currently detained at Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi. She suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure but prison authorities have denied repeated attempts by family to provide her with medication.

3/ Finally, we note the case of Pham Thanh Nghien, 32 years old. She was arrested in September 2008 and has been detained without trial at Tran Phu prison in Hai Phong. She has health problems and has not been allowed a single family visit.

Madame Secretary, we urgently call for your intervention, to request the Government of Vietnam to consider immediately releasing all the above individuals. That they were jailed solely for promoting human rights is outrageous. To let these citizens, who cherish freedom, justice and national independence, to die from a hunger strike or illness is inhumane.

Thank you for your attention.

Signed jointly,

  • Mr. Nguyen Van Duong, brother-in-law of poet Tran Duc Thach
  • Mrs. Ly Thi Tuyet Mai, wife of teacher Vu Hung
  • Mrs. Nguyen Thi Huyen Trang, wife of engineer Pham Van Troi
  • Mrs. Nguyen Thi Nga, wife of writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia
  • Mr. Ngo Quyen, brother of university student Ngo Quynh
  • Mrs. Duong Thi Hai, wife of Mr. Nguyen Van Tinh
  • Mrs. Bui Thi Re, wife of Mr. Nguyen Van Tuc
  • Mrs. Ngo Thi Loc, wife of Mr. Nguyen Kim Nhan
  • Mrs. Nguyen Thi Loi, mother of Ms. Pham Thanh Nghien
  • Mrs. Le Thi Thanh Phong, mother of novelist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

Congressional letter to Hanoi PM on Tran Khai Thanh Thuy arrest

10 11 2009

Sanchez_Wolf_LofgrenNovember 4,2009

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
c/o Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th Street NW #400
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Prime Minister Dung:

We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding the recent arrest of writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, as well as the sentencing of nine democracy activists.

As you are aware, from October 6th – 10th, nine activists were convicted and sentenced to prison for violating Vietnamese anti-propaganda laws. After expressing her support for the activists, Mrs. Thuy was beaten and arrested. This comes within weeks of Vietnam’s recent Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations, in which the country rejected proposals to allow public dissent and to release peaceful prisonels. We are extremely concerned about what appears to be an increase in human rights violations in a country we have already expressed concern about numerous times.

We would like to hear from you directly regarding these convictions and the arrest of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy. Specifically, we would like to know why these individuals have been arrested and jailed when it appears that they were merely peacefully expressing their right to free speech. We look forward to your timely response.


Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress

Loretta Sanchez
Member of Congress

Frank Wolf
Member of Congress


Voicing organized attacks on the Victim – the spouse of writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

2 11 2009

Do_Ba_Tan-Tran_Khai_Thanh_ThuyReport of events occurring on October 8, 2009 in which two strangers attacked the victims

Events Report

Respectfully Addressing To:

District Attorney of Hanoi People’s City
Director of Public Security of Hanoi
City Attorney of Dong Da District, Hanoi

My name is Do Ba Tan, born in 1959, residing at 46, alley 178, Kiêm Thiên street, Trung Phung ward, Dong Da district, Hanoi.

I would like to report herein what actually happened at 20 hours 20 of October 8, 2009 involving events that occurred in front of my home (46, next to 38, alley 178, Kiêm Thiên street).

At the time I just made it back from ordering porridge for my wife, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy who has been ill.

When approaching home, I noticed a presence of a large number of security agents (almost 14, 15 in numbers). As I was walking into my house, one of the agent from the group asked: “What the heck are you looking at?”, to which my response was: “Would I not have the right to look at people?”

I then have my motorcycle stood on its stand next to my neighbor’s home, Thang, right opposite to my home, where traffic rarely exists. Please note this fact with my assertion that the motorcycle was not placed in the middle of the road as the state publicity described. When I attempted to get the gate open, one of the strangers came by and said: ”Are you parking your motorcycle in the middle of the road like this, bastard?”. As I was still astonished by the statement, he started punching at my stomach. I explained that I had to open the gate before I could get the motorcycle in. At the time there was another guy joined in to hit me and they kept punching at my stomach, my chest, my face and my head. This caused significant discomfort to the degree that I felt like they must have hit me with hard objects. They used a 3.5- 4.00 cm sized flash light and the safety helmet I left in the motorcycle to hit me. At this point, I called out for help.

I saw that my neighbors came out to watch the assault. More surprising was the fact that the security agents stood nearby without even breaking up the attack, which is a part of their very basic duty for citizens.

It took some time before my wife could open the gate attempting to help me from the siege and while they were still throwing punches at me, my wife attempted to intervene, which was then thrown against the wall. In self protection, my wife picked up a piece of rock, normally was there for the cable guard. But as soon as she got the rock, one of these guys forcefully removed from my wife’s hand and hit her with it. She felt the pain in her head. As soon as she shouted of the pain, I noticed the blood coming out from the wound, pouring down her hair, her shoulder, and soon the floor was filled with the blood from the wound she had received. To disperse them, my wife picked up a piece of wood making threats. At that time I became aware that the tall man who hit my wife was the same man that hit me when I opened the gate. The crowds dispersed, which enabled me to pass on the porridge I brought home to her. As soon as she held it on her hand, one of them threw himself kicking it away from her hand. When my wife ran into inside our home for safety, he then said ”If you dare, you could come out here.” Then followed that: ”Tomorrow I will have an HIV infected shot for your early departure.” Yet, it was portrayed in the local mainstream media that he was hit hard which required ambulance for the hospital attention. How was that possible?

I would then have to ask them to allow me to bring my motorcycle into my home.

Once inside our home, we were concerned of how we could get to the hospital. I used a clean towel to stop the blood pouring from the wound.

My mother-in-law, Mrs. Lê Thị Thanh Phong was there visiting us, witnessed her daughter being hit in such a ravage manner.

About 15 minutes later, we were visited by Mr. Tran Viet Dung, Village Public Security Head, accompanied by a number of public security officers, and a score of District public security also were at hand. At their request, we let them in and while they were there, we asked if we could have permission to get my wife to the hospital to treat her wound. Mr. Tran Viet Dung indicated that: “Would you come out to the station so that I could issue you a hospital movement order?”

We were in the station about 3 minutes later. This is in complete contrast with the publicity by the mainstream media including Dan Tri, An Ninh Thu Do, Cong An Nhan Dan, and Lao Dong, claiming that for hours the government officials were not allowed to enter our house. There was never a time when I raised my voice loud voice to these officials as so portrayed in their articles.

We were at the station at 10 minutes to 21 hours and waiting… We requested to meet with and was allowed for the treatment by Mr. Dung. However here Mr. Dung changed his voice saying that ‘would you complete the report before I could issue the hospital treatment order?’. Then I noted that there are a score of public security officers from Dong Da District and the people were coming in and out for some sort of meeting upstairs. It took us to 2:00 past mid-night before the investigation started to have us reporting what happened at our home, a time lasted more than 5 hours since we arrived at the station.

We requested to confront with the offenders for a cross-exam of the facts we were about to present, but our request was ignored. I then requested directly with Mr. Tran Viet Dung for an opportunity to meet with the offenders, but Mr. Dung then said: “No, we have to interview them upstairs!.”

“We then overheard that someone claimed they were seriously injured requiring the hospitalization.” This is a statement from those who attacked us. So, upon hearing of such statement, we then protested the facts that this could not have happened. The facts were reversed of what actually happened. How could we ever fight back with such a large group, who were there with a predetermined purpose was to assault us. They planned it out, and they carried it out so well within their full control, so how could any of them ever gotten wounded to the point of needing the hospital treatment?

I began to understand the matters and became wonder: My wife and I were assaulted, victims of crime, yet they now attempted to fabricate the facts indicating we were the criminal offenders against these people, the very people that came to attack us.

Around 7:00 a.m on October 9, 2009, both my wife and I were interviewed and were searched to record evidence of wound. At this point all the officers were well in uniforms armed with camera.

Around 10:00 a.m, I was escorted home so that they could search our home. They read the search order with the reason of charge: “Unlawful Battery”. At this time, my wife was still at the station. I have asked that my wife was the victim of crime and because of that should she not be here to witness the search? They responded:” Only your presence is sufficient.” Upon the District Public Security Officer reading the home search order for purpose of supporting of the charge: “Unlawful Battery”, I protested at a strongest term because me and my wife were the victims of this criminal assault.

I protested the clear misrepresentation of fact created by the government officials, to which agent Thang explained that dispute could be made at the court. I refused to sign the search order. The three cameras and the two recorders were in full swing recording in support of this fabrication.

I then was led back to the station to continue with the process they planned.

Around 11:00 I was allowed back to be with my wife, as guarded by the public security officer. It was worthy to note that after a whole night without sleep, without food we both were tired. The wound of my wife, with bloodshed in her head, hair, clothes were not allowed attention. Although we were not allowed to have the process completed for us to be home, they kept assuring that we would be home in not too long.

It seems far longer when time goes by. It was astonishing when at 1:00 we were placed in handcuff, and an agent laughed saying: “now you are going to the hospital for treatment.” We were led into the temporary detention at the district detention.

At home, none of our family members knew what happened. Our daughter brought meals visiting us, at which time she was told that we were transferred to a temporary detention at the district. For my part, I tried to bring the words home that my wife’s mom needed to help us watching over our home while we are detained here.

To around 17 hours 00 on October 12, 2009, I received a seizure-stop order signed by Lieutnant-Colonel Nguyen Van Thanh, Deputy Chief of the Police Unit.

Upon return I read articles from Bao An Ninh Thu Do, Bao Cong An Nhan Dan, Bao Lao Dong, va Bao Mang Dan Tri, where facts were completely in reverse to the laughing point. The newspapers do not carry the work of a reporting journalist. True facts never existed nor they were ever needed in newspapers.

The above was what happened to the best of our knowledge. We were kept in detention for the crime that we are the victim of, and are the victim of the government using the crime as the very means to strengthen its existence.

Not only we were the victims, purposely not protected by the government whose duty was to protect its innocent people like us, we are never the crime offenders for which our government made it out to be using the very crime that we were victims of to clamp down upon our shoulders.

We urgently request an investigation from the District Attorney of Hanoi City, Director of the Public Security Service of Hanoi, Public Security Chief of Dong Da District for the truth to come out.

Please restore the honor of my wife Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.

Hanoi, October 15, 2009.

Do Ba Tan

Vietnam: Human rights defender Mrs Tran Khai Thanh Thuy attacked and arrested on assault charges

31 10 2009


On 19 October 2009 human rights defender, Mrs Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was reportedly moved to iHoa Lu prison, Hanoi, following her arrest on 8 October on charges of assault. Members of her family have reported that she was the victim of an assault at the hands of police agents, and that the photograph used as evidence against her has been doctored.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy

Further Information

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is a novelist and journalist, member of banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, and an honorary member of English PEN, which works to promote literature and human rights. In 2007 Tran Khai Thanh Thuy received the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Award.

On 8 October 2009, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was arrested while travelling to support six other activists on trial for hanging pro-democracy banners and peacefully expressing their opinions on government policies through internet essays and writings. About 10km from Hai Phong City, the police stopped her car and arrested her. After several hours of detention, she was released to her home at approximately 4 pm, and told that she could not leave her house. At approximately 8.30 pm that evening, there was a disturbance at her home, caused by two individuals, allegedly plain-clothes police officers. As they were unable to identify the individuals as police officers, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and her husband, Mr Do Ba Tan, screamed and tried to defend themselves in front of their 13 year-old daughter, but Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was hit with bricks and suffered an injury to the top of her head. Police officers stationed outside the house did not intervene.

After going to the hospital, the couple were arrested and taken to the police station in Dong Da district, Hanoi. While in detention, the state media circulated a story of the arrest which claimed that the couple had been responsible for an assault on a neighbour. Police Colonel Vu Cong Long, Dong Da district police chief, stated that Do Ba Tan “left his motorbike to block the paths” on their street, and that when the neighbour suggested he move it, an argument ensued in which Do Ba Tan “used his helmet to beat his neighbour in the face”. In addition, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was accused of hitting his neighbour with a brick during the argument. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is now facing assault charges of “intentionally causing injury”, which carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. Do Ba Tan was released on 12 October and the police stated that they will not bring changes against him. Her family report that Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was moved to Hoa Lu prison in Hanoi on the morning of 19 October.

However, sources point out inaccuracies in the claims which are not substantiated by the evidence provided by the authorities. In particular, details embedded in a digital photograph of the neighbour’s injuries have shown that the picture was taken on 28 February 2005 and that the provider of the picture had used Photoshop software to change the date of the images to that of 9 October 2009. In addition, the person in the photograph has not been proved to be the neighbour, although Colonel Vu Cong has referred to him as the “victim”.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has been subject to ongoing harassment by the Vietnamese authorities. On 7 October 2009 Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was denied access to the Hanoi courthouse to attend the trial of teacher Vu Hung, despite the announcement by the authorities of a “public trial” for the proceedings. Police backed down after the intervention of foreign embassy representatives present at the court. In April 2007 she was arrested at her home and later sentenced to nine months’ and ten days imprisonment for “disturbing public order”. She was released on 31 January 2008. In October 2006 she was publicly denounced and humiliated during a trial in the “People’s Court” organised by the authorities. She and her family are subject to police surveillance and ongoing harassment – for example, her home has been attacked by thugs, allegedly hired by the police, and she and her family have received threatening phone calls.

Front Line believes that the arrest, imprisonment and harassment of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is directly related to her work in the defence of human rights in Vietnam. Front Line sees this as part of a pattern of ongoing harassment against Tran Khai Thanh Thuy as a human rights defender. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy suffers from diabetes and advanced tuberculosis, and was refused adequate medical care during her previous time in prison. Front Line is thus seriously concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.

Front Line urges the Vietnamese authorities to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, as Front Line believes that she is being held solely as a result of her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights, and carry out an immediate and impartial investigation into the harassment and intimidation of her with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

2. Ensure that the treatment of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, whilst in detention, adheres to all those conditions set out in the “Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted by General Assembly Resolution 45/111 of 14 December 1990”;

3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and her family including providing her with access to independent medical assistance, as well as guaranteeing her husband the right to prison visits, in order to provide the required medication for his wife;

4. Revise national security provisions in the Penal Code, including in particular Article 88, and bring them into compliance with international standards;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Vietnam are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.





Vietnam: Blogger and democracy activist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy beaten and arrested

23 10 2009

advocacy-temptitle2Arrests of Vietnamese bloggers continue: Blogger and democracy activist Tran Khai Thanh Thuy beaten and arrested *

October 23, 2009 – Vietnamese authorities have arrested another blogger after sending nine internet activists to prison on two to six years terms for expressing their views on the internet.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was arrested on the evening of October 8, 2009 after the police sent plain-clothes officers to her house to harass her, her husband, and their 13-year-old daughter. The officers hit Thuy with bricks, causing her a head injury. Thuy and her husband were then taken away by the police, leaving their daughter at home alone.

Tran_Khai_Thanh_Thuy-bi-danh-vao-dau-3 (08-10-2009)

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy suffered an injury to her head and her mother (right). [Source: Free Tran Khai Thanh Thuy Blog]

Thuy traveled to Hai Phong earlier that day to support six fellow activists who were held on trial. She was stopped by the police and taken away without cause. After several hours of being held incommunicado, she was released, then arrested again the same evening.

This is not the first time Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has been arrested for her blogging and activism. She was jailed for nine months in 2007 for speaking up and helping aggrieved farmers seek justice for expropriated farm lands. During her imprisonment, she suffered from diabetes and severe tuberculosis but was denied medical care.

Since her release in February 2008, she and her family have been under constant police surveillance and harassment. Her home has been vandalized with human feces.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was charged with assault. Vietnamese state-controlled media reported that she and her husband beat and injured another man, hence her assault charge.
A picture of a man bleeding was posted on the state media’s website, Dan Tri.


The doctored photograph of Nguyen Manh Diep’s injuries [Source: Free Tran Khai Thanh Thuy Blog]

Vietnamese bloggers studied the picture and stated that digital data encoded in the picture showed that it was taken on February 28, 2005. However, the picture on the website beared a time-stamp that read October 9, 2009. Many Vietnamese bloggers believe the picture was orchestrated by the police to frame Thuy.

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is an Honorary Member of English PEN, an NGO working to promote literature and human rights, and the 2007 recipient of Human Rights Watch’s Hellman/Hammett Award.

Thuy’s blog can be found at http://trankhaithanhthuy.blogspot.com. We are urging bloggers to raise Tran Khai Thanh Thuy’s case by supporting her blog as well as writing to your diplomatic representative in Hanoi to intervene in this case. You can also visit the campaign blog https://freetrankhaithanhthuy.wordpress.com.

* This article has been written with the collaboration of Viet Tan – a Vietnamese pro-democracy group.


English PEN urge Vietnam’s president to free Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and other activists

22 10 2009

English PENPresident, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

20 October 2009

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you on behalf of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to express our outrage at the sentences handed down to six dissident writers for ‘spreading propaganda’ against the government. We are also extremely concerned by the recent arrest of English PEN’s Honorary Member Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.

According to our information, writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet Nguyen Van Tinh, human rights defender Nguyen Kim Nhan, poet Nguyen Van Tuc, student and internet writer Ngo Quynh, and writer Nguyen Manh Son have all been charged with conducting anti-government propaganda under article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code for their pro-democracy writings and activities, in particular their membership of the banned pro-democracy group Bloc 8406. Following a two-day trial in Hanoi that concluded on 9 October, the writers were handed down sentences ranging from two to six years.

Nguyen Xuan Nghia, Nguyen Van Tinh, Nguyen Kim Nhan, Nguyen Van Tuc, Ngo Quynh and Nguyen Manh Son are amongst dozens of activists to have been arrested since September 2008 as part of an alarming ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent. We at English PEN firmly believe that they have been sentenced for their peaceful dissident writings and activities, and are therefore calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

We are also deeply concerned by reports that our Honorary Member Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was beaten and arrested after she publicly expressed her support for these activists. According to our information, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was detained on 8 October as she made her way to Hai Phong to support the activists as they faced trial. She was held incommunicado for several hours before being returned to her home and told that she could not leave. Later that evening, an incident took place at her home, the details of which are not yet clear. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has subsequently been charged with assault, although it is widely believed that she was in fact the victim of an assault, and that the photograph used as evidence against her had been doctored. If convicted, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy could face up to three years in prison. As such, we are urgently seeking further details of her arrest, and urge the Vietnamese government to conduct an impartial investigation into the incident.

We would welcome your comments on our appeal.

Yours sincerely,

Lisa Appignanesi
President, English PEN