VIETNAM: Serious concerns for the health of writer Nguyen Vu Binh

The Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN is seriously concerned for the health of writer Nguyen Vu Binh, who is said to require urgent medical treatment for undiagnosed chronic gastrointestinal disease and high pressure.

Nguyen Vu Binh has served four of a seven-year prison sentence on espionage charges, and is held in a labour camp with common-law prisoners in very poor conditions and without access to adequate medical care or nutrition. 

English PEN urges that he be allowed to see a specialist doctor so that his condition can be diagnosed and effectively treated in hospital, where his family can care for him.

PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of writer Nguyen Vu Binh in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a signatory, and on humanitarian grounds.

According to PEN’s information, Nguyen Vu Binh, writer and leading member of the Democracy Club for Vietnam, has been held incommunicado since 25 September 2002. He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by three years’ house arrest on 31 December 2003 by Hanoi People’s Court on charges of espionage in a three-hour trial.

Following the proceedings, the official Vietnam News Agency reported that Nguyen Vu Binh had been convicted for having “written and exchanged, with various opportunist elements in the country, information and materials that distorted the party and state policies”. He is also said to have been accused of communicating with “reactionary” organisations abroad. His sentence was upheld on appeal on 5 May 2004.

Nguyen Vu Binh is currently held at Ba Sao forced labour camp, Nam Hà province, where he is said to be held amongst common-law prisoners in cramped conditions and without access to the specialist medical treatment he requires.

Nguyen Vu Binh, aged 39, is thought to have been targeted for the online publication of one of his critical essays, ‘Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement.’

Binh is a former journalist who worked for 10 years for Tap Chi Cong (Journal of Communism), the official publication of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In January 2001 he left his post to form the independent Liberal Democratic Party. He has since written several articles calling for political reform and criticising government policy, and has been under close surveillance since April 2002. He was briefly detained in July 2002.

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