A Vietnamese environmental activist sent back to Vietnam by the United States in October after losing his bid for political asylum, has been detained and is being beaten in prison in the country’s coastal Nghe An province, according to his wife.
Ha Van Thanh arrived back in Vietnam on Oct. 20, though his family was not notified until more than a week later, his wife, Ho Thi Tham told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Tuesday.
“On Oct. 28 or 29, the police sent me a summons and a notice that my husband had been detained,” Tham said, adding that after she went to their office, police warned her not to publicize any documents she might see dealing with her husband’s case.
In particular, Tham said, she was warned against sharing information with Catholic priest and family friend Nguyen Dinh Thuc for posting online.
“If we hear or see that you have done this, we will not let you meet your husband, and the charges against him will be more severe,” Tham said she was told.
“I was too terrified to inform the news media or to contact Father Thuc about this,” she said.
Later, a man who said he had been in jail with Thanh told Tham that her husband had been “thin, and his face and hands were bruised” when he last saw him, suggesting that Thanh had been beaten in custody, Tham said.
Tham also told RFA she had been puzzled by a video clip shown on television in which Thanh confessed to involvement in human trafficking after being questioned by police, adding that something about the televised confession seemed “not right.”
Refugee status denied
Ha Van Thanh fled Vietnam on May 12, 2018, fearing imprisonment for his role in a march with hundreds of victims of an April 2016 toxic waste spill by a Taiwan-owned firm that destroyed livelihoods across Vietnam’s central coast and led to widespread protests and arrests in affected provinces.
He traveled through Cuba, Panama, and Mexico, from where he walked to the U.S. border and met with police to request asylum. He went to court three times, and after his third hearing was denied refugee status.
Well-known Vietnamese rights lawyers Dang Dinh Manh and Nguyen Van Mieng have offered to defend Thanh when his case is brought to court, sources said.
Calls seeking comment from Nghe An provincial police rang unanswered on Tuesday.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by An Nguyen. Written in English by Richard Finney.