Cu Huy Ha Vu, 56 (L), sentenced to seven years in prison for "distributing propaganda against the State" two years ago, goes with a doctor for a regular health check on Saturday. Photo: VnExpress
Prison officials in north-central Vietnam have rejected the accusation that Cu Huy Ha Vu, serving time for subversion, has gone on a hunger strike to protest mistreatment by an officer, VnExpress reported Sunday.
Vu, 56, has been incarcerated in a government prison in Yen Dinh District, Thanh Hoa Province, to serve a seven year sentence for "distributing propaganda against the State."
In its Sunday report, Vietnam Television (VTV) cited some websites as saying that Vu had been reduced to "skin and bones" and faced the risk of death as a result of his hunger strike.
Colonel Le Duy Sau, deputy head of the prison, told VnExpress that Vu has refused to have meals provided by the prison since May 27, but was still taking medicines. Vu reportedly suffers from high blood pressure.
Sau said Vu is allowed to receive food supplied by his family or use his deposit to buy food in the canteen. The prison officials also allowed his family to supply Vu with many utensils as he requested, Sau added.
On Saturday afternoon he received some more from his wife Nguyen Thi Duong Ha and signed a receipt for it.
"Now, his health is good"¦ Vu is very fat, [and] weighs around 90 kilograms."
Sau said Vu's reason for going on a hunger strike was to protest the action of Le Van Chien, a prison warder, for reportedly opening the door of Vu's detention room in the morning, making the wind blow directly on him.
Vu claims that this could kill him and has accused Chien of aiming to "harm" or "murder" him, Sau said, adding that the prisoner was "unreasonable" and "paranoid."
Prisoners have to get up and do exercises at a fixed time in the morning and warders must open the rooms. Chien was just following procedures, Sau said.
Vu has made demands "continuously" and the prison has acceded to them, he added.
Sau said the prison granted permission for a private toilet for Vu and changed a fan that broke down, but the prisoner has complained about their quality.
He said the prison officers have many times advised him not to refuse the prison's food and even had doctors check his health in his room instead of the prison's clinic.
"He has completely ignored our care and humanitarian policies [for prisoners]," Sau said, adding he firmly rejected rumors about mistreatment.
Sau also said Vu has not been a model prisoner thus far.
A prison doctor, not named by VTV, was quoted as saying that Vu has not gone on any hunger strike, as he eats food supplied by his family and only boycotts meals provided by the prison.
Nguyen Dinh Dam, Vu's roommate in prison, said the meals in the prison are always "nutritious" and Vu eats well, so he is also allowed to receive food from his family, which is three to four times the regulated quantity.
The VTV report cited allegations that Vu's "hunger strike" was apparently a response to prison officials' rejecting his demand to have his wife with him for 24 hours, a privilege granted only to exemplary prisoners.
It also said Vu himself has rejected the rumor about his being mistreated and assaulted in the prison, saying that he did not know how that rumor arose.
Prison officials have said they would propose to the Ministry of Public Security that efforts be made to find out who initiated the rumor, according to the VTV report.
In August 2011, the Supreme People's Court sentenced Vu to seven years in prison and another three years under house arrest, rejecting his appeal against the sentence handed down by the Hanoi People's Court.
Under Article 88 of Vietnam's Penal Code, "distributing propaganda against the State" can be punished with prison terms of three to 20 years.
Vu is the son of Cu Huy Can, who was a member of revered founding president Ho Chi Minh's provisional cabinet from 1945 and celebrated poet.
Vu was found guilty of posting articles and interviews with foreign media criticizing the state between 2009 and October 2010.
The articles and interviews maligned the Party and State, defamed the administration and State institutions, and insulted the legacy of Vietnamese people's resistance against foreign forces, prosecutors had said.
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