Questions after another death in police custody

Vietnamese police are routinely accusing of torturing criminal suspects. Photo courtesy AFP.

Vietnamese police are routinely accusing of torturing criminal suspects. File photo courtesy AFP.

Relatives of a man who died after a police interrogation in the rural north of the country are appealing for a full investigation into the circumstances of his death.

Nguyen Cao Tuan, 45, returned home with visible injuries to his legs and ankles after being questioned for suspected theft. He told relatives that he had been beaten by the police.

He died the following day at home from suspected internal injuries.

Rights activists complain that police routinely torture suspects in criminal cases to extract confessions, and that hundreds of people have been killed in similar circumstances in recent years.

The Ministry Of Public Security acknowledged that 226 people died in custody over two years from 2012, but attributed the deaths to illness and suicide.

Tuan, from a rural district in the northern province of Vinh Phuc, was taken in for questioning on October 27 over the suspected theft of a mobile phone.

When he returned home the same day, he took to his bed with a bruised ankle and swelling on his lower legs, and said he had been beaten up during the interrogation.

The next morning, family members found him lying lifeless on his bed. Doctors later confirmed that he appeared to have died while being rushed to hospital, according to a report in the Tuoi Tre newspaper.

His relatives say they do not trust the account being given by police and are appealing to local government officials to intervene and investigate the case.

Vietnamese police have become increasingly sensitive to criticism that they mistreat and torture suspects.

Observers say they suspect state media have been encouraged to give less coverage to deaths in police custody than previously.

A prominent blogger, who compiled detailed reports on the death of 31 people in such circumstances, was arrested earlier this month and charged with spreading propaganda against the state.

Police gave no reason why the blogger, known as Me Nam or Mother Mushroom, had been arrested now after a decade of writing about human rights abuses in the country.