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Detained writer Ho Thi Bich Khuong ill-treated, in poor health

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN is seriously concerned about reports that leading Internet writer, poet, human rights defender and member of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406, Ho Thi Bich Khuong, has been ill-treated and is in poor health. She is serving a two-year sentence for publishing reports on overseas websites. International PEN is calling for her immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and seeks assurances of her well being. It urges that she be given full access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency, and that she be allowed family visits.

According to International PEN's information, Ho Thi Bich Khuong was arrested on 25 April 2007, at an internet café in Nam Dan district, Nghe An province, central Vietnam, for publishing reports on overseas websites on social injustice and human rights violations. She is known for her writings in support of "Dan Oan", women farmers who have had their land seized. Ho Thi Bich Khuong's computer and documents were confiscated from her home after her arrest.

Charged with "'storing cultural products with contents against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" under Article 88 of the Penal Code, Ho Thi Bich Khuong was sentenced to two years in prison and three years' administrative detention on 24 April 2008 by a provincial court in Nghe An. She is currently detained at Labour Camp 6, Thanh My village, Thanh Chuong district, Nghe An Province, where she is held in solitary confinement. Her sister reported after visiting her on 30 October 2008 that she has heavy bruising from ill-treatment in prison, and that she is in poor health. Since December 2008 she has been reportedly denied family visits.

Ho Thi Bich Khuong was previously detained in March 2005 and sentenced to six months in prison for her dissident writings. After her release she was subject to frequent brief detentions and harassment, including threats and attack. On 12 February 2007 she was seriously injured after being hit by a motorcyclist, thought to be a member of the security police. Her current imprisonment was not known to PEN until November 2008.

Ho Thi Bich Khuong was born in 1967. In June 2006 her husband drowned in the Lam river under unexplained circumstances. She has a ten-year-old daughter.

For the BBC's country profile on Vietnam, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1243338.stm

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