November 24, 2009

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President, 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 3,400 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 the health and well-being of writers Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and Father Nguyen Van Ly.

According to our information, Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, an established novelist, poet, essayist and a former editor of the underground dissident magazine To Quoc (Fatherland), has been detained since October 8, 2009. She suffers from diabetes and tuberculosis and there are serious concerns that her health is deteriorating in prison. She was arrested after she publicly expressed her support for six dissidents facing trial and has been charged with assault, although it is widely believed that she was in fact the victim of an assault. Tran Khai Tranh Thuy had been under heavy surveillance and was subjected to harassment since September 2006, and was previously detained in April 2007 for her critical writings published online and held for nine months. She is currently being held at Hoa Lo Moi Prison, near Hanoi.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest and co-editor of the underground online magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech), reportedly suffered a stroke in prison on November 14, 2009, and has been transferred to a hospital in Hanoi. He was arrested on February 19, 2007, and sentenced to eight years in prison on March 30, 2007, for “conducting propaganda against the state.” Nguyen Van Ly is a leading member of the pro-democracy movement “Bloc 8406,” and was previously detained from 1977 to 1978, and again from 1983 to 1992 for his activism in support of freedom of expression and religion. He was sentenced again in October 2001 to 15 years in prison for his online publication of an essay on human rights violations in Vietnam and. was released under amnesty in February 2005.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the well-being of writers Tran Khai Tranh Thuy and Nguyen Van Ly, and urges that they be given full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency. We also believe that they are being held in violation of their right to freedom of expression, and therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release, along with all others held for the peaceful expression of their views, 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 serious matter.


Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Excellency Le Cong Phung
Ambassador of Vietnam to the United States
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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