The 88 Project, February 6, 2017: Prisoner of conscience Tran Huynh Duy Thuc resolutely refuses to be exiled in order to be released early from jail. His family visited him in prison No. 6, Nghe An province on January 29, 2016, and mentioned the case of former prisoner of conscience Dang Xuan Dieu who had been released early and immediately exiled to France. But Thuc was determined to not follow that path. Thuc’s brother told the VOA Vietnamese: “Thuc became very serious and told the family to not talk about him leaving anymore. He said change would come very quickly and nothing could stand in its way. He was determined in staying in the country. He didn’t want to be exiled.”
Last year, in May 2016, Thuc’s family shared with the media that he was “forced to immigrate to the United States” but that he “refused to be exiled in exchange for freedom.” Again, in November 2016, Thuc told his family that he “will not go anywhere and will stay side-by-side with his people inside the country through difficult times,” and that his family “shouldn’t await his release.”
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc is currently serving a 16-year imprisonment under Art. 79 for “carrying out activities to overthrow the people’s government.” It has been almost 8 years since his arrest and trial. His family said that Thuc did not apply for a reduction of his sentence, because, according to Thuc, he’s “not guilty and doesn’t have to admit guilt” (in order to get his sentence reduced).
Thuc’s family is able to visit him every month. They run a Facebook Fan page for Thuc through which they share updates about Thuc and Thuc’s letters from prison with more than 24,000 followers. According to the family, Thuc has been doing well physically and emotionally. Thuc follows the news regularly, mainly through the state-owned newspapers that are allowed in prison, and regularly shares his thoughts on domestic and international news through the letters he’s able to send home (not all of them make it through the prison’s censorship screening process).
For the past 8 years, the Vietnamese authorities have been able to physically isolate Thuc from his family, friends, and the democratic movement. However, they are clearly failing in weakening Thuc’s spirit and his determination in bringing about democratic change for Vietnam. After 8 years, Thuc’s influence remains strong and has even become stronger. His refusal to be exiled has surely saddened many of his supporters who have worked hard to advocate for his release. But exile would mean further isolation from his support network and from the people for whose freedom he has sacrificed his own.
The 88 Project supports Thuc’s decision. All prisoners of conscience must be immediately and unconditionally released. Exile should not be the price they have to pay in order to be free.
© 2017 The 88 Project