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March 2, 2024

Vietnamese former prisoner tells of repeated abusive treatment while in detention

A former prisoner of conscience in Vietnam said she was beaten by guards and repeatedly threatened by the prison warden, who demanded she take off her clothes, banged on her door to wake her and forced her to sing to him.

In October 2019, Nguyen Thi Hue was sentenced to 2 ½ years for “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy” after being arrested for protesting a new law on a special economic zones and allegedly harassing police. 

During her time in pretrial detention in la Grai district, in Vietnam’s southern central province of Gia Lai, Hue said she was repeatedly subjected to abusive behavior.

One of the most terrifying came one night when the chief of the detention facility, whom she identified as Son, came to her cell drunk and demanded she strip. 

“I screamed and called for help,” prompting the warden to disappear, she said.

But he returned the next morning, gun in tow. Son warned Hue and inmates in neighboring cells not to tell anyone what he had done, and he fired two warning shots, one of which broke a jar of water.

Hue said she also had no access to water when going to the toilet, was allowed to have a shower once a week due to water cuts and not allowed any family visits.
She was transferred to the Gia Trung Detention Center within the same province, but her mistreatment continued, she said.

Hue also claims she was attacked with sticks by two other detainees, on orders from the facility’s staff. When running to avoid the attack, she bumped into a water tank, injuring her head so badly that she had to get four stitches to treat the injury.

RFA sent an email request to the Ia Grai district police department to verify Hue’s account of her pretrial detention but received no response. 

While incarcerated, police threatened to never release her if she sought legal help over her maltreatment, but she hired Ho Chi Minh City-based lawyer Nguyen Duy Binh anyway. RFA contacted Binh, but he declined to comment.

Two other prisoners of conscience, Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Van Oai, who were at Gia Trung at the same time as Hue, confirmed that they had heard that she was beaten by the discipline keeper inmates, but they could not confirm why.

 RFA attempted to contact the prison but telephone calls went unanswered. 

Other former Gia Trung prisoners have said that they were also mistreated there. Former inmate Huynh Thuc Vy told RFA that she had been strangled and beaten by prison officers while she was there. 

Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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