Nguyen Van Dien

Current Status: Released - at risk

Photo of Nguyen Van Dien

Other Names: Nguyễn Văn Điển, Điển Ái Quốc

Date of Birth: May 19, 1983

Gender: M

Religion: Christian (Catholic)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Last Known Prison: Prison No. 5, Thanh Hoa province

Areas of Activism:

  • Democracy
  • Human rights
  • Labor rights
  • Sovereignty

Known Affiliations:

Highlighted Human Rights Concerns:

  • Solitary Confinement
  • Former Political Prisoner
  • Harsh Physical and Administrative Conditions
  • Denial of Family Visit/Punitive Prison Transfer

February 2023:

Nguyen Van Dien was released from prison, six months early, on Feb. 22. He will be on probation for another four years.

Dien told RFA he suffered extremely harsh treatment in Thanh Hoa Prison No. 5, including being kept in a windowless cell and experiencing long periods of solitary confinement for staging hunger strikes to protest the conditions.

Dien told The 88 Project that he had to sign a confession in 2020 in order to get the early release because “the pressure was too great.” Dien said that his aging parents were struggling without him and that his imprisonment was hard on his family economically. He was also very ill in 2018, and luckily survived, despite receiving limited medical care. He is now on a four-year probation and has to report to an officer regularly. He also had to promise not to violate the terms of his release, such as going outside permitted areas.

September 2019:

On September 24, 2019, Nguyen Thai Van, Nguyen Van Dien's father, told Radio Free Asia that Dien started a hunger strike on September 22, 2019. The reason for Dien’s hunger strike is to protest the maltreatment of the political prisoners. Van also told RFA that each month Dien is only permitted one meeting with his family, for one hour. This is Dien's second hunger strike in 2019; he staged one in July, also protesting prison conditions for political prisoners. 

Details - History of Activism.

Together with Vu Quang Thuan, Nguyen Van Dien is a leading member of Phong Trào Dân Tộc Chấn Hưng Nước Việt (“National Movement to Revive Vietnam”), which has as its principle the motto “Democracy, Progress, Humanity, Peace.” After the arrest of a founding member of the Movement, former political prisoner Lê Thăng Long, in Vietnam in a major political crackdown in 2009, Thuận and Điển fled to Malaysia, but they were arrested, deported back to Vietnam, and detained at the Detention Center 34 in Hồ Chí Minh city. Điển was then released, but Thuận was coerced into an internment at a mental hospital in Đồng Nai. After Thuận’s discharge from the hospital (year unknown), Điển and Thuận has been continuing to work together in their advocating efforts.

The duo have been producing and running a YouTube video channel through which Vũ Quang Thuận discusses political issues, advocates for the respect of human rights and democracy. The last video series they uploaded two days ago is entitled “Guide to Lawful Protest,” which could be one of the reasons that triggered their arrests.

Arrested March 2, 2017. Sentenced to 6 years 6 months in prison and 4 years probation under Art. 88 (1999 Code). Released February 22, 2023.

March 2, 2017
  • Art. 88 (1999 Code)
January 31, 2018
Ha Huy Son
6 years 6 months in prison and 4 years probation
September 2, 2023
February 22, 2023

On March 2, 2017, Vietnamese state-owned media announced the arrests of two Hanoi-based dissidents, Mr. Vũ Quang Thuận and Mr. Nguyễn Văn Điển, for “making and distributing video clips with bad content on the Internet.” Official report did not clarify under charges they were arrested. 

He was tried on January 31, 2018, by the People's Court of Hanoi together with Vu Quang Thuan and Tran Hoang Phuc. They were charged under clause 1 of Art. 88 of the 1999 Criminal Code. Dien was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison. According to the indictment, Vu Quang Thuan and Nguyen Van Dien were accused of posting 17 video clips on the Internet and possessing materials with anti-socialist state content; Tran Hoang Phuc was accused of helping them in storing the materials and posting 3 of the 17 clips. 

March 2018:

Vu Quang Thuan, Tran Hoang Phuc, and Nguyen Van Dien appealed their sentences. 
July 2018:
Dien and his co-defendants' appeals were denied. Family members were not allowed to attend the appeal trial, and the court still refused to show the videos in question in the indictment; the videos were also blocked at the first trial in January. Defense lawyer Ha Huy Son said of the move: "This left both the convicted men and their lawyers with no way to debate the prosecutors. In other words, the court issued its ruling without considering the evidence, which is a violation of Vietnamese law."

August 2018:

Political prisoners Nguyen Van Dien and Vu Quang Thuan were transferred to new prison facilities. Dien was transferred to Prison no. 5 in Thanh Hoa province from Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1, 400 km from his family, and Thuan was transferred from Hanoi Police Detention Center No. 1 to Ba Sao prison in Ha Nam province. The two and their co-defendant, Tran Hoang Phuc, plan to appeal to the Supreme Court after their sentences were upheld on appeal. 

July 2019:

On June 30, 2019, during a phone call to family, Nguyen Van Dien said he would begin a hunger strike starting July 1, 2019. Before he could tell his family the reason of the hunger strike, the call was abruptly ended. Meanwhile, Vu Quang Thuan also discussed with his family about his wish to hire a lawyer review his case and draft his will before he starts a hunger strike to protest against cruelty in prison. Nguyen Van Dien and Vu Quang Thuan were arrested March 2017 and tried together in January 2018. 

Vietnamese civil organizations issued an “Urgent appeal against Torture and Maltreatment of Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam,” urging the Vietnamese government to “immediately order an end to the torture and maltreatment of prisoners in every prison across Vietnam, especially Prison Camp No. 5 and 6 and to “conduct visits to the above-mentioned prison camps for inspection and scrutiny, and punish those who violate the UNCAT.” As of July 2, 2019, twelve civil society organizations and more than 550 individuals had signed the urgent appeal.

Prior to arrest: Unknown

November 2017

Lawyer Ha Huy Son met with Dien for the first time in Detention center No. 1 in Hanoi and shared that Dien is in good health and spirit.

May 2018:

Nguyen Van Dien is suffering from poor health and insufficient supplies, his lawyer shared on social media after visiting him on May 25. Dien suffers from a stomach bug that has not gone away with the perfunctory treatment by the prison's infirmary. The food in prison is not hygienic. His family can only send food supply once a month, yet they have to buy the food from the cantine of the prison itself to send to Dien, and are not allow to buy more than 400,000VND each time ($20). The family is not allowed to send money directly to Dien, so he lacks basic necessities. 


July 2018:

Amnesty International condemned the original sentences of Dien and his co-defendants and called for their dismissal ahead of the appeal trial, with their Senior Director of Global Operations Minar Pimple saying: "These three men have committed no crime; they have merely used social media to express opinions that the authorities do not like – namely by supporting the protection of human rights and social justice in the country." The US Embassy in Vietnam released a statement following the appeal trial expressing disappointment in the outcome. 

Profile last updated: 2023-10-04 22:35:17

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