A Vietnamese man serving a prison sentence for his role in protests that rocked cities across the country four years ago has been assaulted and beaten by no less than 11 prison guards after demanding that political prisoners be allowed to get out of their cells to play sports, RFA learned.
Le Quy Loc, a member of the civil society Constitution Group, was assaulted in May 2021 at An Phuoc detention center in the southern province of Binh Duong, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Loc had angered prison authorities by demanding that political prisoners held in An Phuoc be allowed to play sports outside their cells on Saturday, a right guaranteed by Vietnamese criminal law.
“Instead of complying with his request, however, the detention center administrators punished him by transferring him to an area housing criminal prisoners, where he was later tortured by detention officers,” a source said. RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
The guards’ beatings left Loc with swelling and bruising on his face, and he went on a hunger strike for eight days after the attack to protest the assault on him, the source added.
Calls to An Phuoc asking for comment on the case were answered with an automated voicemail saying the center’s phone line was under repair.
Speaking to RFA, a Vietnamese human rights lawyer who requested anonymity for security reasons said prisoners’ right to practice outdoor sports is protected under Vietnamese law.
“According to the Law on the Execution of Criminal Judgments, detainees have the right to protection of their life and health. They also have the right to participate in entertainment and sports, as well as cultural and artistic activities.
“Detention centers are against the law if they don’t meet these requirements, so in this case the political prisoners’ request was legitimate and entirely reasonable,” he said.
And although detention center staff can transfer a prisoner at any time from one cell to another, moving political prisoners to cells used by dangerous criminals can be considered an act of retaliation, the lawyer said. . “It can also have a chilling effect on political prisoners who dare to claim their rights.”
Loc, a human rights defender and resident of Son Tinh district in central Vietnam’s Quang Ngai province, was arrested on September 4, 2018, while traveling to participate in demonstrations to protest against the proposed law on cybersecurity and the granting of special economic zones. to foreign investors.
On July 31, 2020, the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced him to five years in prison for “disturbing or breaching security” under Article 118 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, a vaguely defined provision. widely criticized by rights groups for its use by Vietnamese authorities to stifle dissent in the one-party communist state.
Reported by the Vietnamese service of RFA. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Richard Finney.