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Jailed Vietnamese blogger protests harsh prison conditions — Radio Free Asia

A Vietnamese blogger serving a six-year prison sentence for criticizing the Vietnamese government on Facebook has launched a one-day sit-down strike calling for better prison conditions, RFA has learned.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh, detained at Xuan Loc detention center in Dong Nai province, southern Vietnam, had protested on behalf of political prisoners held at Xuan Loc, Anh’s mother, Nguyen Thi Chau, told RFA after learning of his protest from the mother of another inmate.

Most prisoners imprisoned in Xuan Loc for political reasons are now held in small, damp cells and suffer from poor health, although better cells are available in a new wing of the prison, Chau said.

“In the new block, the cells have more space and each can hold at least three people. However, the prison authorities only use two or three of these cells and have closed the others.

However, political prisoners in Xuan Loc are mostly held in the former cell block, Chau said.

“Nearly everyone now has bone and joint problems because the cells are so cramped and damp, and the prisoners suffer from many painful conditions including scabies and toothaches,” she added.

Chau said Anh asked the authorities to allow him and other inmates to move to the best cells, but was refused, leading him to launch his protest with a daytime. “At a time of day when he was allowed to go to a front room to cook, he grabbed all his stuff and sat there all day,” she said.

A large number of prison guards accompanied by four police dogs then removed Anh from the room the next day and took him to a cell three doors down from his old cell but still in the old block, Chau said.

Phone calls to Xuan Loc Detention Center seeking comment on Anh’s case went unanswered this week.

Anh, a fisheries engineer and environmental activist, was sentenced on June 6, 2019 by Ben Tre Province People’s Court to 6 years in prison and 5 years probation for “creating, storing and disseminating information and materials against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. under Article 117 of Vietnam’s 2015 Penal Code.

Anh’s writings described by authorities as slandering Vietnam’s government and one-party state included criticism of the government’s handling of environmental damage resulting from a toxic waste dump in April 2016 that left thousands people out of work in three coastal provinces.

Vietnam, with a population of 92 million, has consistently been rated “not free” in the areas of internet and press freedom by Freedom House, a US-based watchdog group. Dissent is not tolerated in the communist nation, and authorities have routinely used a set of vague penal code provisions to jail dozens of writers and bloggers.

Translated by Anna Vu for RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Richard Finney.