March 16, 2010

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 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting the freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regardomg the prison sentence handed to writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.

According to our information, on February 5, 2010, the People’s Court in Dong Da District of Ha Noi sentenced Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, an established novelist, poet, essayist and former editor of the underground dissident magazine To Quoc (Fatherland), to three and a half years in prison and 47 months of probationary detention. The verdict, based on Article 104 of the Penal Code, was given after a one-day trial. At the same trial, Thuy’s husband Do Ba Tan was given a two-year suspended prison sentence and 47 months of probation, but has been allowed to remain at home to care for the couple’s youngest daughter.
Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has been under heavy surveillance and harassment since September 2006 for her critical writings published online. She was arrested on October 8, 2009, after publicly expressing her support for six dissidents facing trial. On the day of her arrest an incident took place near Thuy’s home during which two men reportedly attacked Thuy’s husband and she intervened in his defense. She was subsequently questioned and charged with assault, although it is widely believed that she herself was in fact a victim of the attack. Thuy suffers from diabetes and tuberculosis, and there are serious concerns that her health is deteriorating in prison. She is being held at Hoa Lo Number 1 Detention Camp (Cau Dien), Ha Noi.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the conviction of Tran Khai Thanh Thuy is part of a systemic campaign of repression against freedom of expression in Vietnam. We request unequivocal assurances from Vietnamese authorities that Tran Khai Thanh Thuy will receive the medical attention she requires as a matter of urgency, and we call for her immediate and unconditional release on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                         
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Le Cong Phung
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th St NW, Suite 400 
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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