SOCIETY

Meeting Cu Huy Ha Vu in prison

Tuoitrenews

Updated : 06/17/2013 17:32 GMT + 7

Tuoi Tre Newspaper met and talked with prisoner Cu Huy Ha Vu and found out that he is healthy, contrary to rumors he went on a hunger strike and is sick. Vu claimed a warden tried to kill him but his accusation has been concluded as groundless.

Recently a number of social websites claim that prisoner Cu Huy Ha Vu had a long hunger strike due to being mistreated and is now frail, thin and sick. What is the truth?

Vu is being imprisoned at prison No 5 (of the Ministry of Public Security) in Yen Dinh district of Thanh Hoa province. On Sunday afternoon, Tuoi Tre journalists met and talked openly with Vu.

Healthy, big, fat, and sharp-witted

Mr. Cu Huy Ha Vu agreed to meet us inside his prison cell which he is sharing with another prisoner named Nguyen Dinh Dam. A number of wardens stood outside in the yard while we talked with Vu.

Vu’s cell has a TV set, electric fan, a shelf with many books on literature and law…has a flush toilet seat, clean water system, and a private kitchen. In front of the cell is a small yard with many ornamental trees. 

Seeing us approaching, Mr. Vu turned off the TV. He seemed healthy, big, fat, talked openly, and was sharp-witted. He talked about his family, about his grandson and about the visits of his wife – Nguyen Thi Duong Ha. 

When Tuoi Tre asked him about his health, Vu replied “I have a history of heart diseases, high blood pressure, but after I stayed at prison No 5, doctors frequently examined me, checked my blood pressure, provided me with cardiotonic medicine”. 

In reply to our question over rumors of his hunger strike, Vu replied “from May 27 to now, I have not eaten the daily meals provided by the prison. I did not eat them to object to the fact that some officials of prison No 5 did not process my letter of denunciation. The denunciation is about warden Le Van Chien who many times opened the cell’s door in the morning in an abrupt way, letting in cold wind, deliberately trying to kill me”. 

Vu added that from the time he refused prison food, his family visited and supplied him with lots of food and drinks including packets of instant noodles, of rice gruel, milk, confectionery, fruit… 

Vu pointed his finger towards the cell’s corner where several cartons of food and milk lay. He agreed to let us take some photos. 

According to Vu, his relatives and cellmate advised him to eat prison meals.

‘Attempted murder’ claim groundless

Colonel Le Duy Sau, deputy head of prison No 5 told Tuoi Tre “you have met and talked openly with prisoner Cu Huy Ha Vu and took photos of his cell. With that, we can all now see how Mr. Vu lives”.

According to the prison leader, “the prison wardens all obey regulations by the government, by the Ministry of Public Security in educating prisoner Vu. As Vu’s family had contributed to the revolution [Vu’s father is Cu Huy Can, famous poet and member of a provisional Cabinet established by founding president Ho Chi Minh], the prison managers created the best conditions for prisoner Vu in everyday life”. 

He continued: “moreover, apart from the food rations provided by the prison as per government regulations, the prison creates favorable conditions for prisoner Vu to buy more food, drinks at the prison’s canteen [no more than VND50,000 or US$2.3 per day] and accepts food and drinks provided by his family per month as per regulations”.

Colonel Sau added that since May 27, Mr. Vu has refused to eat meals handed out by the prison on the ground that Mr. Le Van Chien [a prison guard] deliberately tried to harm him. Since that time, Vu’s family visited him three times on June 1, 5 and 15. 

Each time, his relatives brought him food and drinks weighing no more than 10kg. It is Vu’s relatives who encouraged and advised him to eat prison food, according to Sau. 

Regarding Vu’s claim that warden Chien tried to kill him by opening the cell’s door early in the morning, colonel Sau explained that the prison officials set up a task force on June 7 to investigate the claim. The unit was headed by colonel Nguyen Van Van, deputy head of prison No 5. 

“After investigation, the unit concluded that comrade Chien [the accused warden] correctly abided by work procedures. The fact that comrade Chien opened the cell’s door for roll-calling is a frequent task in line with the law”. 

Vu’s claim that Chien opened the door to let the wind blow in to kill him is groundless, Sau continued. 

On June 14, a conclusion regarding the case was read out to Vu but he rejected it and demanded many things beyond the authority of the prison management team, Sau said. 

Concerning rumors that Vu had a prolonged hunger strike and is very frail, colonel Sau confirmed that it is fabricated, untrue information. 

“Wardens and prison staff have been, are encouraging, and will encourage prisoner Vu to consume prison food to ensure the right to life. Doctors frequently examine Vu and prescribe drugs daily”. 

Vietnamese national TV channel VTV1 yesterday confirmed that Vu did not go on a hunger strike as rumored. 

VTV1 aired a short clip showing Vu having a normal health and being examined by doctors.  The channel said Vu “boycotted the prison’s meals” but ate food provided by his family.  Regarding the rumor that he was mistreated in prison, Vu himself told the channel that he “does not know where the information started”, according to VTV1. 

Prison leaders in Thanh Hoa province where Vu is being held will recommend the Ministry of Public Security to investigate into the rumors.  

In April 2011, at his first instance trial in Hanoi, Vu was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Pursuant to Article 88, Section 1 of the Criminal Code, Vu was charged with “conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.”

Nearly 30 local and international news agencies watched the trial through a monitor arranged outside the court room.

According to the indictment from the local People’s Procuracy, from 2009 to October 2010, Vu wrote many anti-State articles and posted them on the Internet. Vu also wrote articles as reply for interviews from the Voice of America and the Radio Free Asia, in which he distorted and maligned Party and State guidelines and policies, defamed the administration and State institutions, and blackened the Vietnamese people’s resistance wars. He also called for a multi-party regime in Vietnam and demanded Article 4 of the Vietnam’s Constitution be abolished. 

The Ministry of Public Security’s investigators seized from Vu about 240 pages of anti-State documents.  

Vu’s father is Cu Huy Can, famous poet and member of a provisional Cabinet established by founding president Ho Chi Minh.