Police arrested Vietnamese journalist Le Huu Minh Tuan in Ho Chi Minh City on June 12, 2020. He was charged the same day with “opposing the state” under Article 117 of the country’s criminal code. He is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence.
Tuan, who publishes under the name “Le Tuan,” is a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Vietnam (IJAVN), a local unsanctioned independent press group, and has covered daily news for Vietnam Toi Bao, a news website affiliated with the association, according to news reports and a statement issued by the journalists’ association, which CPJ reviewed.
Authorities searched Tuan’s house and seized documents and materials during his arrest, according to those news reports.
According to the Vietnam News Agency, a government-run broadcaster, Tuan was detained in connection with an ongoing investigation into Pham Chi Dung, a journalist and the president of the IJAVN, who was detained in November 2019.
On November 10, 2020, state prosecutors indicted Tuan at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy, thereby confirming the charges filed by police and advancing his case to the court system, according a report by the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia.
On January 5, 2021, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court convicted Tuan and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, to be followed by three years of house arrest, under Article 117, according to news reports.
The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a June 7, 2021, legal opinion calling for Tuan’s release, determining his detention to be arbitrary.
Tuan was initially held at a detention center in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh district, where harsh conditions caused his health to deteriorate, and in April 2022 he was transferred to the Bo La detention center in Binh Duong province, his sister, Le Thi Hoai Na, said after meeting Tuan on May 26, 2022, in the first family visit allowed since his arrest, RFA reported.
She said Tuan was in “very bad health,” that she “couldn’t recognize him,” and that he suffered from scabies, a hearing impairment, and was emaciated, the RFA report said.
Na said prison officials refused Tuan’s request to receive medical treatment at an outside facility, but his family was allowed to send him medicine.
In June 2022, Tuan was transferred again to Xuyen Moc prison in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, according to an IJAVN source who communicated with CPJ on condition of anonymity, citing security reasons.
Tuan was held incommunicado after that transfer, was kept in a “very hot” cell, and he was “not allowed to go outside or talk to any other prisoners,” the IJAVN representative said, adding that he was allowed to call home once a month but was not permitted to write letters or receive books or newspapers.
In 2023, Tuan suffered from ulcerative colitis, prolapsed hemorrhoids, hives, scabies, fungal infections, and intestinal issues, according to an IJAVN representative who communicated with CPJ via email and requested anonymity for security reasons. Na said after a July 9 prison visit that Tuan had scabies all over his body, making it difficult for him to walk or stand, according to an RFA report.
Tuan was barred from receiving medicine sent by his family, Na said in a separate interview with The 88 Project, an independent rights group that monitors the status of Vietnamese political prisoners.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, which oversees the country’s prison system, did not respond to CPJ’s emailed requests for comment about Tuan’s conviction or his health and treatment in prison sent in late 2023.