Vietnam: Fresh reports shed light on death of church leader in police custody  10/04/2013

Funeral procession for Hoang Van Ngai

Funeral procession for Hoang Van Ngai

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has received new information concerning the circumstances surrounding the death of Vietnamese church leader Hoang Van Ngai (also known as Vam Ngaij Vaj), who died in police custody in Dak Glong District in Dak Nong Province on 17 March.

Police claims that Ngai died after putting his hand into an electric socket have been contested by his family members.

Reports by Ngai's relatives state that his wife and sister-in-law were arrested on 14 March and were forcibly taken to the police station in Gia Nghia. Ngai and his elder brother Hoang Van Pa were arrested the following day and were detained in adjacent cells. The reason for the arrests was not clear; the police did not present or refer to any arrest warrant or temporary detention order.

At approximately 3pm on 17 March, Ngai's brother heard the sound of violent beating coming from his brother's cell. When the police took Ngai out of his cell, his brother saw that he was “completely limp as if he was dead, gone, purple marks on his throat.” Prison guards denied Pa's request to go with his brother.

Ngai was an elder of Bui Tre Church, which belongs to a legally recognised denomination, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South). According to other members of the Hmong community, Ngai was a compassionate and courageous person who helped those in need and defended the church he helped to build. Ngai's older brother believes he made enemies amongst government officials because he stood up against abuses of power and refused to pay bribes.

On 18 March, the police headquarters announced that Ngai was dead; however, his family felt that this announcement did not make clear the reason for his death. In addition, the family reject the suggestion made by Mr Dien, Chairman of the People's Committee of Dak Nong Province that Ngai may have committed suicide. Ngai's wife, brother and sister-in-law have submitted a letter of petition to the Chief of Police in Dak Nong Province requesting an investigation into the case and the indictment of the person(s) responsible for Ngai's death and the arrest of his family members.

CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, “As more information comes to light about the tragic circumstances of Hoang Van Ngai's death, CSW again calls on the Vietnamese Government to fully investigate this case and the possibility that the victim was tortured while in police custody. We also urge the government to take measures to guarantee that the right to religious freedom is upheld across the country, in order to prevent further violations against believers.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email kiri@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

Notes to Editors:

1. The victim's name is Vam Ngaij Vaj in the Hmong language; Hoang Van Ngai is his Vietnamese name. The Hmong name was used in the initial reports; the Vietnamese name is used in later reports and official complaints. 
2. Initial reports indicated that Ngai was arrested on 16 March, however it has now been clarified that he was arrested on 15 March.
3. The family denies breaking any laws pertaining to “destroying the forest”; a charge that surfaced in initial reports of the arrests.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

For more information, please call 0845 456 5464, email admin@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk