The group of more than 20 people was trying to visit a prison in the north-central province. The attackers, armed with helmets and clubs, hit indiscriminately. Several prisoners are on a hunger strike to protest against the poor conditions in prison.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Plainclothes agents and pro-government hoodlums attacked more than 20 pro-human rights activists and relatives of political prisoners when they tried last week to visit a prison in Nghệ An, a province in north-central Vietnam.
The attackers used helmets and clubs to beat indiscriminately the members of the group, which included women and seniors.
According to witnesses, the attackers were plainclothes police officers and common criminals; the latter are used by the authorities to suppress dissent and activism.
"I recognised them because I was also imprisoned in this camp in the past," said Trinh Ba Khiem, a former political prisoner who spoke to Radio Free Asia (RFA). The reference is to Camp number 6 in Nghệ An, outside of which the attack took place.
A prison official called Du appears to have directed the attack. A former inmate named Phuong, sentenced to 20 years for drug trafficking, was among the attackers. “The police let them out to attack us,” Khiem said.
Nguyễn Thi Kim Thanh, wife of journalist Trương Minh Đức, was among those who could not meet family members in prison. She was beaten and forced to leave the prison camp without meeting her husband. She had recently undergone an abdominal operation.
Local sources add that at least four political prisoners in Camp 6 – Trương Minh Đức, Đào Quang Thực, Nguyễn Trung Tôn and Trần Phi Dũng – are on a hunger strike to protest the poor conditions in the prison.
According to activists and international NGOs at least 128 people are held as prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, but the number could be much higher.
Last December, Nguyễn Kim Binh, from the Vietnam Human Rights Network, spoke of at least 200 political prisoners.