A former prisoner of conscience in Vietnam said she was beaten by guards and repeatedly threatened by the prison warden, who asked her to undress, banged on her door to wake her and forced her to sing to him.
In October 2019, Nguyen Thi Hue was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for “abusing the rights to freedom and democracy” after she was arrested for protesting a new special economic zones law and allegedly harassing the police.
During her pre-trial detention in La Grai district in Vietnam’s south-central Gia Lai province, Hue said she was repeatedly subjected to abusive behavior.
One of the most terrifying was one night when the prison director, whom she identified as Son, walked into her cell drunk and demanded that she undress.
“I was screaming and calling for help,” she said, prompting the warden to leave.
But he returned the next morning with the gun in tow. Son warned Hue and inmates in neighboring cells not to tell anyone what he had done, and he fired two warning shots, one of which broke a water jug.
Hue said she also doesn’t have access to water when she goes to the bathroom, is allowed to shower once a week due to water shortages, and doesn’t allow family visits.
She was taken to Gia Trung Detention Center in the same province, but her abuse continued, she said.
Hue also claims she was attacked with sticks by two other inmates on orders from the facility’s staff. As she ran to avoid the attack, she hit a water tank and injured her head so badly that she required four stitches to treat the injury.
RFA sent an email request to the Ia Grai District Police Department to verify Hue’s report of their pre-trial detention, but received no response.
While she was detained, the police threatened never to release her if she sought legal help about her mistreatment, but she hired Ho Chi Minh City lawyer Nguyen Duy Binh anyway. RFA contacted Binh but he declined to comment.
Two other prisoners of conscience, Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Van Oai, who were in Gia Trung at the same time as Hue, confirmed that they had heard that she had been beaten by inmates from the disciplinary inspectorate, but could not confirm why .
RFA tried to contact the prison but phone calls went unanswered.
Other former Gia Trung prisoners have said they were abused there as well. Former inmate Huynh Thuc Vy told RFA that prison officials strangled and beat her there.
Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.