Prisoner of Conscience Tran Thi Nga Denied Family’s Visit, Dissidents Concerned about Her Safety

Activist Tran Thi Nga with her two kids before being arrested in February 2017

Defend the Defenders, September 29, 2018

Vietnamese activists are concerned about safety of prisoner of conscience Tran Thuy Nga after authorities in Gia Trung prison camp denied her family’s visit.

Her family and many activists have questioned the prison’s refusal, suggesting she may be under dangerous situation given the fact that she received death threats in June and July.

On September 29, her fianse Phan Van Phong took their two children from Hanoi to travel around 1,300 km to the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai where Nga is serving her nine-year imprisonment. However, they were allowed to meet with her and the prison’s authorities gave no explanation.

The last meeting between Nga and her kids was July 26.

In August, her younger brother came to the prison for a visit, however, he was denied as the prison’s authorities told him that she was disciplined for violating the prison’s regulations.

In mid-August, Nga was beaten and given death threat by a fellow inmate, according to Mr. Phong, an activist in Hanoi who is taking cares for their two kids, six and eight years of age. Nga telephoned him to report the assault against her carried out by a female inmate who was placed in the same cell with her.

The female inmate, considered the most aggressive woman in the prison, was continuously beating Nga and threatening to kill her.

Meeting strong public condemnation after the incident was unveiled, the prison’s authorities were said to move the perpetrator to another cell.

Nga said the harassment against her is part of the acts of prison authorities aiming to force her to confess her wrongdoings. Since being arrested in January 2017 and convicted in mid-2017, she has refused to deliver a false confession, saying she has done nothing wrong according to Vietnam’s law and international human rights laws.

After being convicted in trails which fail to meet international standards for fair trials, prisoners of conscience have been transferred to prisons far from their houses.

In prisons, they have been treated inhumanely as prison authorities under the authorities of the Ministry of Public Security impose different methods to break their mental strength and make their lives more difficult, former prisoners of conscience and prisoners of conscience have said.

The methods include cell confinement, threats and torture by other inmates, forced labor, and poor-quality food as well as the denial of proper medical treatment. In 2016, the London-based NGO Amnesty International released its report titled “Prisons within Prisons: Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam” described clearly how prisoners have been treated in prisons.

In July, prominent human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a well-known blogger under the penname of Mother Mushroom, conducted a long-lasting hunger strike to protest inhumane treatment while serving her ten-year imprisonment in Prison No. 5 in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province. She was also threatened by an inmate and provided with poor-quality food. She agreed to end the hunger strike after a representative of the US Embassy in Vietnam visited her and the prison authorities agreed to move her to an another cell.

Nga, who was arrested in late February 2017 and charged with “conducting anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the country’s 1999 Penal Code, was sentenced to nine years in prison. She is listed as one of around 100 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam by Amnesty International.