Authorities keep body, mystery surrounds the death of prisoner of conscience Đào Quang Thực
Officially, the retired teacher died yesterday morning from a stroke at the Friendship General Hospital in Nghệ An. For some time, he had shown signs of illness and had been hospitalised for a week. He was supposed to serve 12 more years of his sentence on “subversion” charges.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese dissident Đào Quang Thực (picture) died in custody in Prison Camp n. 6, Nghệ An province, where he was serving a 13-year sentence for subversion.
The authorities announced that the 59-year-old retired teacher died from a stroke, but they refuse to release the body to the family.
Đào Duy Tùng, the prisoner's son, told the Vietnamese service of Radio Free Asia that his father passed away at 10 am in hospital where he had been taken by prison guards.
“The doctors said that my father died of a brain haemorrhage and bronchitis,” the younger Đào said. “We are not allowed to bring his body home for burial, though, and under pressure from the authorities we have had to let them do the autopsy.”
Đào had shown signs of illness in prison and was taken to the Nghe An Friendship General Hospital for treatment.
Between 20 June and 21 July, he had gone on a hunger strike to protest against poor conditions in his jail along with three other inmates: Trương Minh Đức, Nguyễn Văn Túc and Trần Phi Dung.
Đào’s trouble with the law began with his brutal arrest on 5 October 2017. In his writings online and in public, the teacher had called for better environmental protection by the Vietnamese government and protested against Chinese boats violating Vietnamese territorial waters in the Eastern Sea (South China Sea).
In Vietnam, China’s territorial claims and the construction of artificial islands in the sea have sparked frequent anti-Chinese protests, which Vietnam’s Communist authorities fear as a potential threat to their political control.
In late January 2018, after three months of detention, the authorities informed Đào's daughter that his preventive detention would be extended by four months. In April, the family reported that he had been ill-treated and even tortured.
Đào's trial was held on 19 September at the People's Court in Hòa Bình province. His lawyer, Le Văn Luân, said that the prosecution only succeeded in proving that the defendant “had tried to make connections [online] with others with similar views”.
Nevertheless, the court sentenced him 14 years in prison, reduced to 13 on appeal in January 2019.
It is unclear how many prisoners of conscience are currently held in Vietnam. Estimates vary widely. Last October, Human Rights Watch put the number at 138.
For rights group Defend the Defenders, there are at least 240 jailed dissidents, 36 of whom were convicted this year alone.