A Vietnamese environmental activist has been beaten unconscious in jail and refused medical treatment, according to his wife.
Nguyen Ngoc Anh was sentenced to six years in June for “anti-state” posts about the environment on Facebook, as the one-party communist state continues its crackdown on online dissent that has seen dozens jailed.
His wife has told media he was badly beaten by his cellmate last week, leaving him with a limp. He was denied medical treatment, despite losing consciousness during the attack, and was placed in solitary confinement, Nguyen Thi Chau said, after visiting him in jail on Oct. 11.
“When I sat down, I saw my husband come out, but he could barely walk,” she told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
“My husband told me that last Friday, (prison authorities) invited (his cellmate), a convicted criminal, for a talk. When the (talk) was finished, he walked up to (my husband) pointing his finger at him and said, ‘I can kill you and I won’t have to (answer for it). I will kill you this time’.”
She said she believes authorities are pressuring him to give up his appeal, and plead guilty, and that the abuse becomes more severe when he refuses.
Nguyen was a shrimp farmer on the Mekong Delta who was active on Facebook about politics and the environment, posts that received thousands of likes. In 2016, he posted about a massive fish kill in central Vietnam blamed on a Taiwanese steel company that dumped toxic waste into the ocean.
His wife detailed her husband’s account of the attack at Binh Phu Detention Center in the country’s south.
“He jumped into the cell and threw a punch, but my husband was able to dodge,” she told RFA.
“(My husband) turned around to grab a bath towel, but the criminal kicked him from behind. My husband fell and hit his head on the (concrete) bunk and he lost consciousness.”
“He was turned down (for medical attention). They also didn’t arrest the guy that beat my husband, and escorted my husband to a separate cell, like for solitary confinement.”
Vietnamese authorities have not commented to media on the attack.
Vietnam has stepped up its imprisonment of political activists, according to Amnesty International. A June report from the group said 10 percent of the current 128 such prisoners have been detained for posting anti-state comments on social media platforms.
The crackdown comes after a cybersecurity law was passed last year that requires Facebook, Google and other internet providers to remove content deemed critical of the state, and hand over user data if requested by the government.
In September, Nguyen Quoc Duc Vuong, 28, was detained and faces charges of “making, storing, disseminating” information intended to oppose the state. He regularly posted support for democracy to his thousands of followers on Facebook.