10/25/2018, 13.32
VIETNAM
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Catholic activist Nguyễn Văn Hóa subjected to abuses and forced confession

Serving a prison term for "propaganda against the state", the 23-year-old blogger was arrested for protesting against the government's handling of the country’s worst environmental disaster. The authorities tried to get him to testify against Lê Đình Lượng, another Catholic dissident.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/RFA) – Nguyễn Văn Hóa (pictured), a Catholic activist serving a seven-year prison term for "propaganda against the state", has been the victim of repeated abuses and pressure from prison guards, this according to Pham Le Vuong Cac, a friend of the dissident, who posted online the summary of a letter Hóa wrote to his family last month.

In the letter, the 23-year-old blogger accuses the agents of trying to force him to testify against other dissidents in cases in which he is not involved.

On 16 August, Hóa and fellow prisoner Nguyễn Viết Dũng were brought to court in Nghệ An, as witnesses against Lê Đình Lượng, another accused Catholic activist.

The three had been arrested for protesting against the government over its handling of the environmental disaster caused by the Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group.

In April 2016, a subsidiary of the company released toxic industrial waste in the coastal waters off Hà Tĩnh province, central Vietnam, crippling the local fishing industry and tourist sector.

In court, the two prisoners retracted the previous statements made against Lượng and defended him against the authorities' accusations. As a result, the deputy director of the Nghệ An Police Detention Centre dragged Hóa into another room of the courthouse and beat him. The court then claimed that he could not return to stand because of a stomach ailment.

The activist filed a complaint for assault, but the authorities refused to proceed in the matter.

In his letter, the Catholic blogger writes that two investigators from Hà Tĩnh province threatened him during questioning over cases that had nothing to do with him. When the young man refused to cooperate, the two threatened to prosecute him in other cases.

Hóa notes that as a stipulation of the verdict against him, his Facebook account should have been deleted, but instead it is being used by Hà Tĩnh security, and that other fake accounts claiming to be his have been created for illegal purposes.

The activist ends the letter by asking his family to contact the prison as soon as possible to check his conditions if they don’t receive a phone call and two letters from him every month.

The family says they are in regular contact with him. His sister said that she visited him on 16 October and at the beginning of this week, Hóa called her telling her that he had undergone an operation for a tumor.

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