Vietnam: English PEN welcomes Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa’s release

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Poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa released after six years in prison

English PEN was delighted to learn that poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa was released on 11 September 2014, having spent six years in prison. In a message to PEN colleagues and fellow writers on behalf of himself and his family, Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa sent his heartfelt thanks for our ‘invaluable support, precious aids and unceasing efforts in actions to speak out for and stand by this painful and shocking case’.

We were also very pleased to learn that he is in good spirits, despite suffering from a number of health problems that have been exacerbated by the conditions of his detention.

Whilst we warmly welcome Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa’s release from prison we remain concerned that he now faces a further three years of probationary detention and are calling on the Vietnamese authorities to lift this sentence at the earliest opportunity. Please join us.

TAKE ACTION

Please send appeals:

  • Welcoming the release of poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa from prison;
  • Expressing concern that Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa faces a further three years of probationary detention and calling on the Vietnamese authorities to lift this sentence at the earliest opportunity;
  • Calling for the release of all those currently detained in Vietnam in violation of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party.

Appeals to be sent to:

His Excellency Truong Tan San
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Hanoi
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

His Excellency Mr Vu Quang Minh
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
12-14 Victoria Road,
London
W8 5RD
Email: consular@vietnamembassy.org.uk

You may wish to write to the authorities using the form below. A sample letter is provided, but we would highly recommend personalising your appeal.

[ecampaign ‘to=consular@vietnamembassy.org.uk’ subject=”In support of Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa”]

Your Excellency

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to welcome the release of Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa.

According to PEN’s information, poet, journalist, essayist and novelist Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa was released on 11 September 2014 having served six years in prison. Whilst I welcome Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa’s release from prison I remain concerned that he now faces a further three years of probationary detention. I believe this to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression and call on the Vietnamese authorities to lift this sentence at the earliest opportunity.

I would also like to take this opportunity to call for the release of the many other writers and literary professionals currently detained in Vietnam in violation of their right to freedom of expression, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

Background

Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa is a poet, journalist, essayist and novelist. As a journalist, he wrote for all the main government papers until 2003, when the government banned him as a result of his pro-democracy activities.

Arrested in September 2008, Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa was held for over a year without trial. His hearing finally took place in October 2009 and lasted just a few hours before he was convicted of conducting anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code and sentenced to six years in prison and three years in probationary detention. The sentence was upheld on appeal in January 2010.

In March 2012, his family went to visit him in prison, only to discover that he had been transferred to a new detention facility. He is now being held in a prison in Nghe An province, Central Vietnam near to the Vietnamese border with Laos, more than 400km from their family home.  This will make his family’s visits even more difficult and costly as they have to travel for two days in order to visit him.

Following her first visit to the new camp, his wife Nguyen Thi Nga reported that he was suffering from a number of health complaints, including haemorrhoids, stomach ulcers, and rheumatic inflammations. She also described how his morale had, understandably, been seriously affected by his experiences in prison, stating that he has contemplated suicide on a number of occasions.

In July 2013, it emerged that Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa’s co-detainee, blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay) had begun a hunger strike in protest at the conditions of the prison where the two writers are held. Dieu Cay’s family and the outside world only learned of this hunger strike because Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa selflessly put himself at further risk by informing his wife about the strike during her most recent visit to the prison. According to reports, the prison guards immediately muffled him, and used excessive force to drag him across the floor out of the visiting area. It was later reported that he had been put in solitary confinement.

A few weeks later, it was reported that the ‘disciplinary punishment’ had been temporarily suspended. However, when his wife visited him briefly she learned that although he was no longer in solitary confinement, he was now in an even more dangerous situation – sharing a cell with a criminal prisoner. Shortly afterwards, we learned that Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩa had been physically attacked by his cell mate.

Nguyễn Xuân Nghĩ was finally released on 11 September 2014 on the expiry of his sentence. He now faces a further three years of probationary detention

 

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