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Vietnam

Ailing Lutheran pastor 'left to languish' in Vietnam jail

Nguyen Cong Chinh is being victimized for leading religious prisoners in rights protest, wife says

ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

Updated: December 16, 2016 09:03 AM GMT
Ailing Lutheran pastor 'left to languish' in Vietnam jail

A Vietnamese policeman stands watch outside a prison on the outskirts of the southern coastal town of Vung Tau. Prison officers treat religious prisoners cruelly to force them to confess "their crimes and accept unfair convictions." (Photo by AFP)

A Lutheran pastor imprisoned in Vietnam has been transferred to another camp and kept in solitary confinement because he stood up for the rights of other prisoners, says his wife.

Tran Thi Hong went to visit her husband Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh who was being held in Phuoc Prison in Binh Duong on Dec. 12 only to be told, after waiting for three hours in the rain, that he had been transferred to Xuan Loc Prison in Dong Nai province.

"I arrived at Xuan Loc Prison the following day, and prison officials told me 'Chinh was not allowed to call his family or inform them that he had been relocated because he refused to accept his crimes,'" she told ucanews.com.

"I told them that my husband did not do anything wrong and that they treated him in an inhumane way," Hong said.

Chinh, 50, fought for religious freedom of Christians from ethnic minority groups in the central highlands. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2011 for undermining national solidarity under Article 87 of the Vietnam penal code.

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Since then he has been moved to three camps and has not been not allowed to call his family, even when his mother died.

Isolated

Hong said she eventually saw Chinh in Xuan Loc Prison through a glass window and talked with him via phone for 45 minutes.

"He is kept in a cell that is away from others, and given food through a small window two times a day," Hong said.

"Prison officers have taken away all his belongings including a copy of the Bible. They also didn't allow him to get food, medicine and clothes from me," she said.

In August Chinh and other religious prisoners went on hunger strike to demand that they be allowed to call their families five minutes a month like other prisoners. Chinh was accused of leading the hunger strikers.

They were also given contaminated food.

Hong said consequently others had their demands met while Chinh was moved to Xuan Loc Prison as punishment.

"He is in poor health, he suffers high blood pressure and has severe sinusitis," Hong said. "I fear that he is too weak to complete the rest of his sentence."

 

 

Tran Thi Hong says her husband Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh is too weak to serve the rest of his 11-year sentence in jail. (Photo courtesy of tinmungchonguoingheo.com)

Prisoners of conscience suffer mistreatment

An activist based in Ho Chi Minh City said that prisoners of religion and human rights are treated cruelly in prisons. They are forced to work hard and kept in poor conditions, he said.

"They are transferred to camps far away from their homes and their relatives who live in poverty cannot afford to visit and give food to them," he told ucanews.com.

The activist said prison officers treat them inhumanely as way to "force them to confess their crimes and accept unfair convictions."

The Political and Religious Prisoners Friendship Association based in Vietnam reported that they have the names of some 100 prisoners of conscience being kept in prison. The association estimates that hundreds of other prisoners from ethnic minority groups in the highlands and northern provinces are detained in camps for being involved in religious activities.

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