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Imprisoned writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien in poor health, denied family visits

(WiPC/IFEX) - The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN is alarmed by reports that imprisoned writers Nguyen Hoang Hai and Pham Thanh Nghien (f) are at risk of ill-treatment, in poor health, and denied full access to family visits. They are part of a group of writers who were detained during a crackdown against peaceful dissent in Vietnam in August and September 2008. International PEN continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Vietnam is a signatory. It seeks assurances of their well being and urges that they be given full access to necessary medical care and allowed family visits as a matter of urgency.

According to PEN's information, there are particular concerns for the welfare of these two writers who remain detained following the crackdown:

- Nguyen Hoang Hai (pen name: Dieu Cay), an independent journalist and blogger, was sentenced on 10 September 2008 to two and a half years' imprisonment by a court at Ho Chi Minh City for alleged 'tax fraud', although he is widely believed to be targeted for his criticism of the Vietnamese government. On 1 April 2009, Nguyen Hoang Hai's family were told that he had been transferred to Cai Tau prison, in U Minh, which is nine hours from where the family lives and where it is difficult to obtain a visitor's permit. There are reports that Cai Tau prison is known for the brutal treatment of prisoners and for alleged corruption. His family believes that Nguyen Hoang Hai was transferred to Cai Tau to limit the frequency of their visits, and is very concerned for his well-being.

- Pham Thanh Nghien, an Internet writer and independent journalist, has been detained without charge since 11 November 2008. She is believed to be held under Article 88 of the Criminal Code on charges of 'propaganda against the state', but has not yet been brought to trial. When arrested, she was reportedly suffering from severe migraines due to previous beatings by local authorities in the streets near her home. Pham Thanh Nghien's family has not been able to visit her since her arrest, and they have no information on her health.

The writers below were also detained in the crackdown and continue to be held:

- Nguyen Xuan Nghia, poet and writer, member of the Hai Phong Association of Writers and founding member of the banned democracy movement known as Block 8406; arrested on 11 September 2008;
- Le Thi Kim Thu (f), online reporter and photographer, arrested on 14 August 2008;
- Pham Van Troi, dissident writer and activist, known for his contributions to the underground dissident review "Tu Do Dan Chu" (Freedom and Democracy); arrested on 10 September 2008;
- Nguyen Van Tuc, farmer, poet and human rights defender, known for his numerous writings on social injustice and satirical poems published on overseas websites; arrested on 10 September 2008;
- Ngô Quynh, student and dissident writer, author of online dissenting articles, including 'Viet Nam needs to compile a new History-book' and 'Journey to Lang Son's Dairy', published on overseas websites; arrested on 10 September 2008.

For the previous WiPC alert on the crackdown in Vietnam, visit:

For the BBC's country profile on Vietnam:

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