By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– The family of a Vietnamese Hmong Christian believe he was killed while in police custody because of defending his church and standing up against “corrupt local officials”, rights activists said Tuesday, June 11.
The statement came after police claimed their investigation showed that the death of Hoang Van Ngai on March 17 was caused by “suicide by self-electrocution.
Hoang Van Ngai was an elder of Bui Tre Church, part of the legally recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South)
“Ngai’s older brother believes he made enemies amongst government officials because he stood up against abuses of power and refused to pay bribes. He also defended the church when the authorities tried to force them to close,” said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement to BosNewsLife.
Ngai was reportedly detained March 17 with his elder brother, Hoang Van Pa, a day after his wife and sister-in-law were forcibly taken into custody the previous say, Christians said.
“The police did not present or refer to any arrest warrant or temporary detention order,” added CSW.
On March 17, Ngai’s brother allegedly 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,” CSW quoted him as saying.
Photographs of Ngai’s corpse show severe bruising which were not there before he was detained, according to CSW investigators with access to the material.
After police announced Ngai’s death on March 18, his family demanded an investigation.
“The family submitted an urgent petition to the Chief of Police in Dak Nong Province, contesting the suggestion made by the Chairman of the People’s Committee that Ngai committed suicide. The case was widely publicized, and several international organizations and government representatives raised the case with the Vietnamese authorities,” CSW added.
In mid-May, after two months of petitioning, the authorities reportedly notified the family that their investigation had confirmed the original finding of suicide by self-electrocution.
However CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife that he “Ngai appears to have been targeted for his Christian faith and his determination to stand up to corrupt officials.”
He said the authorities’ “failure to address the questions raised by Ngai’s death properly cast serious doubt on the government’s commitment” to international agreements.
Vietnam signed the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including provisions against the arbitrary deprivation of life (Article 6), arbitrary detention (Article 10), and the use of torture or cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment or punishment (Article 7), he recalled.
“We therefore call on the government to conduct a full investigation into this case immediately, taking into account the testimonies of Ngai’s brother and other prisoners, photographic evidence, and the circumstances surrounding his arrest, imprisonment and death.”
There was no immediate reaction from Vietnamese officials. Vietnam has in previously denied the persecution of Christian and ethnic groups.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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