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Letter to Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang calling for the immediate and unconditional release of blogger Nguyen Van Hai

Wednesday 24 July 2013 - 5:34pm

24 June 2013

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

Your Excellency,

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, the world association of writers representing members in 140 countries worldwide, is gravely concerned for the health of blogger Nguyen Van Hai (aka Dieu Cay), who has been on hunger strike since 23 June 2013 in protest at his detention conditions. He is held in solitary confinement without access to family visits. Nguyen Van Hai who wrote articles and blogs critical of the authorities is serving a 12-year sentence for “conducting propaganda against the state’. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release, as he is held solely for peacefully expressing his opinions and on humanitarian grounds.

According to PEN’s information, Nguyen Van Hai has been on hunger strike in prison for the past 30 days in protest against the adverse conditions and treatment he and his fellow inmates are receiving from the jail guards and officers inside Prison Camp No. 6 in Thanh Chuong District, Nghe An Province in Central Viet Nam. Dieu Cay has been held at 10 different prisons and camps since his arrest in October 2008. His current prison camp is very far from his home, making family visits very difficult.

On 16 July 2013, a family member attempted a monthly visit, but was told that Nguyen Van Hai was being punished for “disturbing order” and was not allowed visits. He was also said to have been on hunger strike since mid-June 2013, and to have been held in solitary confinement for three months and denied medical care. Nguyen Van Hai’s family is gravely concerned for his health and safety. His previous hunger strike in 2011, also conducted in protest against the inhumane detention conditions, lasted about 28 days and almost killed him due to the adverse effects on his organs. Prison Camp No. 6 has no adequate medical facilities, and it is situated in a remote, mountainous region some 70 kilometres from Vinh, the nearest town. If Nguyen Van Hai’s health suffers as a result of a prolonged hunger strike, he would not have access to urgent medical treatment.

Nguyen Van Hai (aka Nguyen Hoang Hai/Dieu Cay), prominent blogger and founder of the “Club of Free Journalists of Viet Nam”, who is well-known for his online writings calling for greater respect for human rights and democratic reforms, has been continuously detained since 19 April 2008. He was first
convicted in 2009 on trumped-up charges of “tax evasion” after a manifestly unfair and closed trial. Instead of being released upon completing his sentence in 2010, Mr. Dieu Cay was charged with a second offence of “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 88 of the Criminal
Code) based on his online writings for the Free Journalist Network in Viet Nam, published prior to his arrest in 2008. Article 88 is among several repressive provisions in Vietnamese law that are routinely used to criminalise free speech and imprison peaceful dissidents. He was detained incommunicado for over a
year. Nguyen Van Hai is an honorary member of PEN Canada.

PEN International is gravely concerned for the health and safety of blogger Nguyen Van, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Vietnam is a state party, and on humanitarian grounds.

It is also alarmed at the large number of writers and journalists currently detained or imprisoned in Vietnam for the peaceful expression of their views, and calls for the immediate and unconditional release anyone held solely for such reasons.

We would welcome your comments on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Marian Botsford Fraser

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at International PEN
Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London
WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: