Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Convicted on "subversion" charges for reporting corruption within the Communist Party, Catholic journalist and activist Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mân was the victim of “repeated acts of ill-treatment” in her prison cell, this according to her family.
"Sometimes the prison guards slapped her face," Minh Mân’s father Nguyễn Văn Lợi said. "At present, my daughter has to spend ten days of isolation in a small room, a very dark and smelly cell," he added. Some prisoners have also been used to "insult her in front of others."
Nguyễn Đặng Minh Mân (pictured, centre) is an freelance journalist. In 2011 she wrote about Vietnamese patriots and nationalists protesting against China’s "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea. She was arrested for this reason on 31 July of that year, together with other 14 young Protestants.
In the eyes of the authorities, their fault was that they fought for social justice. After 18 months in pre-trial detention, the defendants were convicted in a hasty and phoney trial that lasted only two and a half days. The journalist was not provided with any legal counsel and the trial was procedurally flawed.
According to the indictment, she tried to "overthrow the government of the people" under Article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, which has been strongly criticised and deemed “ambiguous” by UN human rights agencies.
She is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Prison N. 5 in Thanh Hóa province, to be followed by five years of house arrest.
Her father visited her recently. In a phone conversion with his wife, who stayed home, he said that their daughter "lost weight", and is exhausted by the detention.
Maria Tạ Phong Tần, a former prisoner of conscience, spoke about meeting the Catholic activist in prison. "We were locked up in the section for political prisoners but in different cells,” she said. “No one is allowed to go in, not even medical personnel, canteen staff, and security guards."
However, occasionally an “outsider” was allowed in, a ruffian called Lan who cruelly "hit Minh Man, causing bodily harm.
In spite of repeated abuses and violations, Minh Mân "is a resilient person" able to "fight in prison for the rights of other prisoners".
The United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has appealed to the Vietnamese government for the unconditional release of the Catholic activist.