(New York, NY) — On the one year anniversary of Vietnamese writer Tran Duc Thach’s arrest, PEN America reiterates its call for his release.

Thach is a poet, online writer, and human rights advocate, arrested on April 23, 2020 and charged under Article 109 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, which criminalizes “activities against the people’s government.” According to Thach’s lawyer, the charges against him were related to Thach’s Facebook posts discussing government corruption and human rights abuses, as well as his previous association with the civil society group Brotherhood for Democracy—a group commonly targeted by authorities.

Last December, Thach was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and three years of probation. PEN America called the sentence “a shocking and shameful outcome in a case that never should have been brought to trial in the first place.” Thach’s health has reportedly deteriorated during his time in detention, raising concerns for his well-being.

“Tran Duc Thach should never have been arrested, let alone convicted, and every day that he remains imprisoned represents another injustice against him and his family,” said James Tager, research director at PEN America. “Thach’s ill-health is reason alone to release him from prison, but there is also the fact that his ‘crime’ was nothing more than the peaceful exercise of his human rights. Tran Duc Thach deserves far better than to be treated like a criminal for his words and for his advocacy. What he deserves is his freedom.”

Thach, a prolific writer whose work stretches back decades, is known for his writings exposing corruption, injustice, and human rights abuses. Thach previously served three years imprisonment for “propaganda against the state,” during which time he received the Hellman Hammet award for his commitment to free speech.

On Wednesday,  America released its Freedom to Write Index 2020, which noted that Vietnam remains one of the top ten countries with the largest number of imprisoned writers. Vietnamese officials commonly use national security crimes, like Article 109, to target dissidents and government critics, punishing them for their writing, activism, and/or political affiliations.