April 10, 2009

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt

President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
C/O Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Nguyên Tân Dung

Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Lê Doan Hop
Minister of Culture and Information
1 Hoang Hoa Tham Street
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern for imprisoned writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien, who were both detained during a crackdown on peaceful dissent in the fall of 2008.

According to our information, independent journalist and writer Nguyen Hoang Hai (pen name Dieu Cay) was sentenced to two-and-a-half-years’ imprisonment by a court in Ho Chi Minh City on September 10, 2008. Although he was convicted for alleged tax fraud, it is widely believed that he was targeted due to his public criticism of the Vietnamese government. According to his family, Nguyen Hoang Hai was transferred at the end of March to Cai Tau prison in U Minh, which is notorious for its brutal treatment of prisoners and alleged corruption. His family believes he was transferred in order to limit the frequency of their visits, as the prison is nine hours away and it is extremely difficult to obtain a visitor’s permit to U Minh.

Pham Thanh Nghien, an Internet writer and independent journalist, has been detained since November 11, 2008. Although she is reportedly being held under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on charges of producing “propaganda against the state,” the case has not yet been brought to trial. She was reportedly suffering from serious migraines when she was detained because of previous beatings by local authorities in the streets near her home. Pham Thanh Nghien’s family has been barred from visiting her, and they have no information regarding her physical health.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that many writers remain in custody due to their peaceful activities during last year’s protests, including Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien, and that others continue to be surveilled. We therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien and all others detained in violation of their right to freedom of expression in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                 
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee  

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

His Excellency Nguyen Tam Chien
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the United States of America
Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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