12/02/2020, 09.48
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Hanoi, dissident PhamThanh transferred from prison to a psychiatric hospital

The writer and blogger had been held in a detention centre since last May, awaiting trial. He is indicted under art. 117 of the Criminal Code, for having produced and kept "documents against the State". The reasons for the transfer are unknown. HIs wife: "He has no mental problem."

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The police have transferred the Vietnamese writer and dissident blogger Pham Chi Thanh, better known as Pham Thanh, from the prison cell where he has been held since last May to a psychiatric hospital in Van Dien, Than Tri district, in Hanoi.

The move dates back to November 24, but the news emerged only in these days following the complaint of his wife. Previously, the man had been notified of an extension of a further three months of the preventive detention order in the prison camp, pending trial.

"They said they would keep him in custody for four months while he was waiting for his trial, but then they extended that period by another three months,” Nghiem said, adding that she was allowed to speak to Thanh by phone while he was held in detention. “And then they transferred him to the Central Institute of Forensic Mental Health in Van Dien,” she said.

“I don’t understand why my husband was transferred to a mental health institute, because he is not mentally ill,” Nghiem said.  Calls seeking comment from the Central Institute of Forensic Mental Health were not answered on Monday.

Born in 1952, Pham Thanh has written numerous books and documents critical of the Vietnamese leadership and the single communist party, its secretaries and political leaders. Among these was a volume published last year, in which the current general secretary of the Communist Party and president of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong was targeted.

The police arrested him on May 21 with an enormous deployment of forces; agents took him, seizing personal documents, two computers and a printer. The magistrate indicted him on the basis of art. 117 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, for “having produced, stored and disseminated information and documents against the State”.

In June, another Vietnamese blogger and dissident held in a psychiatric hospital for criticism of the state, and awaiting trial, was beaten, tied to a bed and forced to receive intravenous injections to treat the (alleged) mental illness.

Dissent is not tolerated in Vietnam, and authorities routinely use a set of vague provisions in the penal code to detain dozens of writers, bloggers, and activists calling for greater freedoms in the one-party communist state. Estimates of the number of prisoners of conscience now held in Vietnam’s jails vary widely. New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that authorities held 138 political prisoners as of October 2019, while Defend the Defenders has suggested that at least 240 are in detention, with 36 convicted last year alone.

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