Nguyen Bac Truyen

Current Status: Sentenced to prison

Photo of Nguyen Bac Truyen

Other Names: Nguyễn Bắc Truyển

Date of Birth: August 12, 1968

Gender: M

Religion: Buddhist (Hòa Hảo)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Business professional

Current Prison: An Diem prison, Dai Loc district, Quang Nam province

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Land rights
  • Religious freedom

April 2020:

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom called for the release of Nguyen Bac Truyen on the second anniversary of his trial. USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said of Truyen that: “He should be home with his family, especially now that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the public health risk to prisoners and his health problems have escalated since his imprisonment.


The Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and U.S. Representative Harley Rouda (D-CA) wrote an opinion calling for the release of Hoa Hao Buddhist Nguyen Bac Truyen from prison. In the opinion, they wrote about Truyen’s poor health conditions and said that, “His immediate and unconditional release is necessary to demonstrate the Vietnamese government’s stated commitment to religious freedom.” The letter writers urged U.S. officials to continue to press for the release of Vietnamese political prisoners. They also called for USAID funding in Vietnam to go towards education on the importance of religious freedom and for the US to designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern if Vietnam refuses to protect religious freedom in the country.

Details - History of Activism.

Nguyen Bac Truyen runs the Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association; he also provides free legal advice to those affected by land grabs and is an adovcate for human rights and for the release of all political prisoners in Vietnam. 

In 2011, he won Human Rights Watch's Hellman/Hammett Award for his work. 

Defend the Defenders's archives

Amnesty International Urgent Action, Vietnam: Missing Human Rights Defender At Risk of Torture: Nguyen Bac Truyen, August 22, 2017 (PDF)

Six Vietnamese Activists Sentenced for 'Subversion' in Hanoi Trial, Radio Free Asia, April 5, 2018

Prisoners of Conscience in Viet Nam, Amnesty International, April 4, 2018


Arrested November 17, 2006. Sentenced to 3 years 6 months in prison under Art. 88 (1999 Code). Released May, 2010.

November 17, 2006
  • Art. 88 (1999 Code)
May 10, 2007
3 years 6 months in prison
May, 2010

Arrested July 30, 2017. Sentenced to 11 years in prison under Art. 79 (1999 Code). Expected Release is July 30, 2028.

July 30, 2017
  • Art. 79 (1999 Code)
April 5, 2018
11 years in prison
July 30, 2028
  • Human Rights Watch
  • US government
  • Amnesty International

Second arrest:

Nguyen Bac Truyen was kidnapped and arrested on July 30, 2017. He was held in an unknown location for three weeks after his arrest. Truyen was arrested along with three other pro-democracy activists associated with the Brotherhood of Democracy and prisoner of conscience Nguyen Van Dai. They were arrested under Article 79 for activities deemed to be subversive.

December 2017:

In December, authorities announced they finished investigations and recommended that Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Van Dai, and Le Thu Ha, be prosecuted.

April 2018:

On April 5, in a one-day trial, six activists, whose backgrounds range from defending religious freedom, to environmental rights, to multi-party democracy, were sentenced to a combined 66 years in prison and 17 years of house arrest under Article 79 of the 1999 Criminal Code. All have been known to support political prisoners and their families and advocate for human rights. Nguyen Bac Truyen was sentenced to 11 years in prison and three years of house arrest.

In late April 2018, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Truong Minh Duc, and Nguyen Bac Truyen appealed their sentences.

June 2018:

Three Brotherhood for Democracy members – Nguyen Trung Ton, Truong Minh Duc, and Pham Van Troi– as well as religious freedom activist Nguyen Bac Truyen, had their appeals denied on June 4.

July 2018:

Authorities transferred Nguyen Bac Truyen. Truyen was moved from the B14 detention center in Hanoi to An Diem prison camp in Quang Nam province, over 800 km from his family.

February 2019:

The latest report on Truyen was about his cards for the occasion of Lunar New Year. He sent hand-written cards to his family and his friends, wishing them all the best in the new year and giving thanks for their support.

March 2019:

On March 7, Kim Phuong, wife of political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen, was barred from leaving Vietnam to travel to Germany, where she planned to conducted advocacy efforts for her husband. 

May 2019:

On May 23, Hoang Duc Binh’s family went to visit him at An Diem Detention Center, Quang Nam province. Binh was in very poor health due to being on hunger strike. Binh, Nguyen Bac Truyen, and other prisoners started a hunger strike on May 12 to protest against the detention center torturing fellow political prisoner Nguyen Van Hoa. On May 12, 2019, a detention center officer at An Diem forced Hoa to sign a report with many blank spaces. Hoa revealed to other prisoners that he refused to sign because the authorities could later fill those blank spaces with false content to punish him. After that, public security forces and detention officers beat him harshly, causing bruises, and took him away without an official punishment decision. 


According to an update from Hoa's sister, who went to visit him at An Diem Detention Center on May 28, 2019, Hoa’s health was fine now in spite of being beaten and held in solitary confinement for ten days. He was released but still had to be isolated in one room at camp K1 for the next six months. As of May 27, there was one prisoner who stopped his hunger strike, while political prisoners Hoang Duc Binh and Nguyen Bac Truyen, as well as one other, kept striking in solidarity with Hoa, Hoa said. Those striking were said to be unaware of Hoa's current condition.

Nguyen Bac Truyen has gastrointestinal and heart conditions.

He has been repeatedly harassed by authorities and was beaten, along with his wife, on several ocassions. 

March 2014:

Several UN Special Rapporteurs released a letter documenting harassment and intimidation against Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife, Bui Thi Kim Phuong, as well as several colleagues. They asked for further information on and resolution of the matter, as well as a guarantee of freedom of expression and religion for them.

November 2014:

UN Special Rapporteurs sent another letter regarding Nguyen Bac Truyen to Vietnamese authorities, this time raising concerns about the treatment of religious minorities in Vietnam. Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife had their movement restricted by authorities after meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief in July 2014. In addition, when Truyen was hit and badly injured by a motorbike in August 2017, the perpetrator was believed to be part of the group of agents watching Truyen and his wife. At several other instances, Truyen and his family were restricted to their home and also surveilled by police. 

October 2016:

The UN Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief sent yet another letter to the Vietnamese authorities asking for more information regarding alleged attacks on religious groups and individuals in the country, including Nguyen Bac Truyen and his wife, and why these persons' peaceful, religious expressions were not being protected under international standards. He wrote: 

"I am respectfully appealing to your Excellency’s Government to clarify these
allegations, especially of those incidents that appear to illustrate a pattern of reprisals
against persons who sought to meet and cooperate with foreign diplomatic
representatives. As the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam acceded to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 24 September 1982, your
Excellency’s Government has the obligation to protect the right to freedom of religion or
belief of all persons in the country, including those who belong to religious minorities or
unrecognized communities as enshrined, inter alia, in Articles 18, 19, 20, 26 and 27 of

August 2017:

Front Line Defender’s released an action for Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Bac Truyen, and Truong Minh Duc, who were all arrested in late July 2017, calling for their immediate release from prison.

Amnesty International released an Urgent Action for Nguyen Bac Truyen.

September 2017:

Several UN Rapporteurs released a letter expressing concern about the arrests and detentions of Nguyen Bac Truyen, Truong Minh Duc, Nguyen Trung Ton, Pham Van Troi, Nguyen Van Tuc, and Le Dinh Luong. They highlighted the issue that these arrests took place during a concerted crackdown on human rights activists and point out that Vietnam has international obligations to protect universal freedoms, such as the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. 

April 2018:

Governments, advocacy groups, and individuals alike condemned the harsh sentences against Truyen and his co-defendants after their April 5, 2018 trial. “The Vietnamese government should thank them for their efforts to improve the country instead of arresting and putting them on trial," said Human Rights Watch's Asia Director, Brad Adams, in a statement ahead of the trial. The Spokesperson of the EU External Action division noted in their statement that the rights exercised by the defendants are "guaranteed by the Vietnamese Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."  The United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister, Harriett Baldwin, agreed that peaceful expression of one's opinions should not be considered a crime. Heather Nauert, US State Department Spokesperson, also supported other governments and organizations in calling for the release of the prisoners and for Vietnam to uphold international obligations. "Individuals have the right to the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, both online and offline," she said in her statement.

June 2018:

After Truyen's appeal trial, Amnesty International released a statement condemning the decision to uphold his and his co-defendants' sentences, saying that: "These activists have been deliberately silenced by Vietnam’s authorities for bravely speaking out in a country where freedom of expression is under attack."

April 2019:

Several international human rights organizations sent a letter to top EU leaders as negotiations continue on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, urging Vietnam to release religious and democracy activist Nguyen Bac Truyen from prison. Truyen has spent years defending the legal rights of victims of injustice and advocating for human rights; for this work, his family has been harassed and Truyen arrested and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Read the letter, here.

April 2020:

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has called for the release of political prisoner Nguyen Bac Truyen on the second anniversary of his trial. USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava said of Truyen that: “He should be home with his family, especially now that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the public health risk to prisoners and his health problems have escalated since his imprisonment.”

Profile last updated: 2020-04-28 13:19:02

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