Nguyen Xuan Nghia
On September 11, 2014, Nguyen Xuan Nghia was released from prison due to his deteriorating health. Nghia told reporters that he must now seek treatment for numerous medical conditions, including a prostate tumor, that he claims were made worse by poor conditions and treatment in prison. Nghia told reporters that he was put in isolated detention twice during the course of his time in prison, each “special detention” lasting 3 months. He was also reportedly beaten multiple times and prison guards tried to get him to “work” for them in an attempt to “create division and suspicion amongst democracy advocates.”
Nguyen Xuan Nghia is a poet, journalist, essayist, and novelist, a member of the Hai Phong Association of Writers, and a founding member of the banned democracy movement known as Bloc 8406. He is the editor of the underground democracy journal To Quoc (Fatherland) Review. As a journalist, he wrote for all the main government papers until 2003, when the government banned him because of his pro-democracy activities.
In 2006, Bloc 8406 created the Manifesto on Freedom and Democracy in Vietnam. The group’s name refers to the date that the manifesto was created. Originally signed by 118 dissidents, the number of signatories grew into the thousands.
On September 11, 2008, Nguyen Xuan Nghia was arrested at his home in Haiphong just after midnight. His arrest, part of a dragnet in which dozens of activists were arrested including many writers, print journalists, and bloggers signaled the beginning of a renewed crackdown on dissent in Vietnam. He was charged with conducting anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code for his pro-democracy writings and activities, in particular for being a leading member of Bloc 8406, a coalition of political parties and organizations campaigning for political reform.
On October 9, 2009, after a trial that reportedly lasted just a few hours, Nguyen Xuan Nghia was convicted of conducting anti-government propaganda under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code and sentenced to six years in prison. Article 88 forbids “all propaganda against the Communist system of government” as well as “slanderous allegations undermining national security, the social order and the people’s trust in the Party.”
The indictment against him, which was dated July 3, 2009, cited 57 pieces written by Nguyen Xuan Nghia from 2007 until his arrest in 2008, including poetry, literature, short stories, and articles that allegedly sought to “insult the Communist Party of Vietnam, distort the situation of the country, slander and disgrace the country’s leaders, demand a pluralistic and multiparty system…and incite and attract other people into the opposition movement.”
On January 21, 2010, an appeals court in the northern port city of Haiphong upheld Nguyen Xuan Nghia’s sentence. Foreign journalists were not permitted to attend the proceedings, which lasted a day.
In March 2012, Nguyen Xuan Nghia was transferred from the B14 labor camp in Ha Dong province, south of Hanoi, to Labor Camp nr 6 Cell A, in Nghe An Province. The new detention facility is near the Laos border and is 400 km from his family’s home, which made his wife’s visits even more difficult and costly. While in prison, Nguyen suffered from a number of ailments that may have been exacerbated by prison conditions.