INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Condition of Former Mennonite Prisoners Misstated in Ngo

Published: Mon 21 Mar 2005 02:28 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000293
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, DRL/IRF
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PREL PGOV KIRF VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: CONDITION OF FORMER MENNONITE PRISONERS MISSTATED IN NGO
PRESS RELEASE
REF: A) HCMC 086 B) HCMC 212 C) HCMC 221
1. (SBU) Summary: UK-based NGO Christian Solidarity Worldwide
(CSW) issued a press release on March 15 alleging torture of a
number of the Mennonite Six; followers of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang
who were arrested following a confrontation with police officers
in March 2004. Key statements in the release are at odds with the
facts, based on our meetings with the subjects and information
from other well informed sources. Pastor Quang and his followers
have a history of conflict with the police and of exaggerating
these incidents for international media attention. ConGen provides
contingency press guidance below. End Summary.
2. (SBU) The CSW press release referenced the case of brothers and
former prisoners Nguyen Thanh Nhan and Nguyen Hieu Nghia and
current prisoner/mental hospital patient Le Thi Hong Lien, stating
that "one [brother] is now partially paralysed (sic) and the other
has conditions which may be life-threatening." The two brothers,
along with two other Mennonites, were arrested in March after a
confrontation between Pastor Quang's followers and the police. We
met separately with both men at length in January after their
release from prison and also had the opportunity to review their
medical records (Ref A). There was no immediately visible
evidence that they had suffered sustained or systematic abuse by
prison authorities. On 22 February, Nguyen Thanh Nhan again
visited the Consulate. In addition to appearing physically sound,
Poloff watched him run across six lanes of traffic in front of the
Consulate building with no obvious signs of physical distress.
3. (SBU) The press release also refers to imprisoned Mennonite Le
Thi Hong Lien. Following her arrest, Lien appears to have
suffered a mental breakdown. Congen has followed her case closely
and urged authorities to provide her medical care and humanitarian
release. The CSW press release stated that Lien had been brought
to Bien Hoa Mental Hospital for an examination but subsequently
had been returned to Tong Le Chan Prison. Lien's father, Le Quang
Du, told us that his daughter was evaluated at Bien Hoa Mental
Hospital on March 1 and then was returned to prison but was
transferred to the hospital for long-term care shortly thereafter.
He visited her in the mental hospital on 4 March and again on 11
March. Du stated that Lien was showing signs of improvement:
where previously she had been disoriented and unresponsive, she
now addressed her father and enquired about the whereabouts of
possessions confiscated prior to her transfer to Tong Le Chan
prison.
4. (SBU) Proposed contingency guidance:
Q: What can you tell us about alleged abuse of the two Vietnamese
Mennonite brothers, Nguyen Thanh Nhan and Nguyen Hieu Nghia and of
another Mennonite prisoner, Ms. Le Thi Hong Lien?
A:
-- THE UNITED STATES STRONGLY SUPPORTS THE BASIC RIGHT OF FREEDOM
OF RELIGION IN VIETNAM AND HAS PRESSED THE GOVERNMENT TO RESPECT
THE RIGHTS OF ALL VIETNAMESE TO WORSHIP FREELY.
-- OUR CONSULATE GENERAL HAS MET WITH BOTH NGUYEN THANH NHAN AND
NGUYEN HIEU NGHIA AND REVIEWED THEIR MEDICAL RECORDS. NEITHER
BROTHER APPEARED TO BE SUFFERING SERIOUS MEDICAL PROBLEMS ON THOSE
OCCASIONS.
-- REGARDING MS. LIEN, WE HAVE URGED VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES TO
PROVIDE HER ADEQUATE MEDICAL ATTENTION AND TO RELEASE HER FROM
PRISON ON HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS. WE UNDERSTAND THAT MS. LIEN IS
NOW IN LONG-TERM CARE AT BIEN HOA MENTAL HOSPITAL.
WINNICK
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