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Vietnam: List of nearly 100 prisoners of conscience published as crackdown intensifies

Protesters hold posters to support jailed bloggers in Hanoi in March 2016.

There are at least 97 prisoners of conscience languishing in jails in Vietnam, many of whom are kept incommunicado in squalid conditions and routinely subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, new research by Amnesty International has revealed.

Amnesty is publishing a list of the 97 prisoners on the day before a high-profile trial of six further activists.

Tomorrow (Thursday 5 April), six people will face trial in Hanoi City for their peaceful activism. They include five members of the ‘Brotherhood for Democracy’, a group of peaceful activists, as well as human rights defender Nguyen Bac Truyen.

All are accused of the trumped-up charge of ‘subversion’ because of their peaceful political activism, urging international organisations to raise human rights issues in Vietnam and providing legal support to farmers and workers. If convicted, they could face a life sentence, or even the death penalty.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said:

“The relentless crackdown on dissent in Vietnam must end now.

“The authorities should start by immediately dropping the ludicrous charges against the six activists facing trial tomorrow and set them free without condition.

“This should be immediately followed by the unconditional release of all 97 prisoners of conscience and the repeal of all laws that criminalise peaceful dissent.

“Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s most prolific jailers of peaceful activists – a shameful title no one should aspire to. The 97 prisoners of conscience that we are aware of in the country are all brave women and men who have been robbed of their freedom for nothing but promoting human rights.”

The list of 97 prisoners of conscience includes lawyers, bloggers, human rights defenders, environmental activists and pro-democracy campaigners – all them peaceful activists. Many have been handed lengthy jail sentences after farcical trials in Vietnam’s judiciary.

Last year, the Vietnamese authorities intensified a crackdown on dissidents and sought to tighten control of the internet by targeting bloggers and social media users. The well-known blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, better known as Mẹ Nấm (Mother Mushroom), was sentenced to 10 years in jail in June last year for ‘conducting propaganda’. Her health has been deteriorating rapidly in recent months as she is being denied adequate medical care in prison.

Prisoners of conscience face deplorable conditions behind bars, where they are often held in solitary confinement, denied access to lawyers and family members. Torture in Vietnamese prisons is rife. Amnesty has documented how prisoners are beaten with sticks, rubber tubes, punched and kicked, electrocuted, and subjected to stress positions.

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