PEN International is gravely concerned for the health of blogger Dinh Dang Dinh, who is suffering from end-stage stomach cancer and was transferred to the hospital on February 15, 2014. PEN is also seriously concerned for the health of poet, essayist, scholar, and Catholic Priest Father Nguyen Van Ly, and writer and activist Nguyen Huu Cau. Both are serving lengthy prison sentences in Vietnam imposed for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and are seriously ill. PEN is calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a state party, and on humanitarian grounds.

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Background Information

On August 9, 2012, Dinh Dang Dinh, 51, (pen name: Van Nguyen) was sentenced by the Dak Nong province People Court to six years in prison under Article 88-1 (c) of the Criminal Code for “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.” Defending himself at the half-day closed trial, he pleaded not guilty. His sentence was upheld on appeal at a 45-minute hearing on November 21, 2012. The charges were brought against him after he published articles tackling corruption and environmental issues, deemed as anti-government on his blog. Dinh is reported to have undergone an operation for liver and stomach cancer in November 2013. His health is said to have declined rapidly while in detention owing in part to poor detention conditions.

Until recently, Dinh Dang Dinh was detained in the Public Security Police Cong An detention camp, Dak Nong province. On February 15, 2014, he was granted a one-year “temporary suspension” of his prison sentence, owing to the rapid decline of his health. He is currently being held at Ho Chi Minh’s Oncology Hospital for medical treatment, where his wife reports that he is kept under close guard and 24-hour surveillance. While his family has been permitted to visit him in the hospital, his friends have not. His wife, Dang Thi Dinh, has called on the international community to urge the Vietnamese government to release him back to his family before he dies. She believes that his life can now be counted in “days and hours.” According to PEN’s information, Dinh Dang Dinh has not eaten in over a month.

Father Nguyen Van Ly, 67, a Catholic priest and co-editor of the underground online magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech), 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." He was previously detained from 1977-1978 and again from 1983-1992 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, before being released under amnesty in February 2005. On March 30, 2007, a People’s Court in Hue sentenced him to “conducting propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under Article 88-1 (c) of the Criminal Code. On November 14, 2009, he reportedly suffered a stroke in prison. Nguyen Van Ly was granted provisional release so that he could seek medical treatment unavailable in prison on March 15, 2010, but was returned to a labor camp in Ha Nam province on July 25, 2011. In September 2010 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for his immediate and unconditional release.

Nguyen Huu Cau, 68, is a poet, songwriter, human rights defender, and anti-corruption activist. According to PEN's information, he was arrested at his residence by public security police of Kien Giang province on October 9, 1982, for authoring an "incriminating" manuscript of songs and poems that implicated members of the ruling Communist Party in corruption. On the backs of the pages in his original book, Nguyen Huu Cau noted allegations of rape and bribery committed by two high level officers. The original manuscript was not used as evidence in the trial, in order to protect the two officers concerned. On May 23, 1983, he was sentenced to death for “sabotage,” which after an appeal was commuted to life imprisonment.

Nguyen Huu Cau suffers from a heart condition, which is worsening because of the lack of adequate medical attention and the deplorable prison conditions. Nguyen has been placed in harsh solitary confinement on various occasions. He has lost most of his vision and is almost completely deaf. He is currently being held at forced labor camp K2 Z30A Xuan Loc, Dong Nai province, Vietnam.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing serious concern for the health of writers and activists Dinh Dang Dinh, Nguyen Van Ly, and Nguyen Huu Cau, and urging that they are given full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency;
  • Calling for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the ICCPR, to which Vietnam is state party, and on humanitarian grounds.

Send Your Letter To

His Excellency Truong Tan Sang
President of the Socialist Republic
of Vietnam
Hung Vuong street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi, Vietnam

Mr Nguyen Tan Dung
Prime Minister
1 Hoang Hoa Tham street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi, Vietnam
Fax: +84 80 44130/ +84 80 44940

Mr Phan Binh Minh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam steet
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi, Vietnam
Fax: +844 3823 1872