Huê (AsiaNews) – A Vietnamese court has sentenced dissident Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly to eight years in prison for anti-government activities. Fr. Van Ly, has already spent 14 of the past 24 years in prison and has been under house arrest since February. 4 other people, 2 men and 2 women, were also sentenced to jail terms ranging from 6 months to 1 and a half years.
60 year old Fr. Van Ly, is accused of being a founding member of Bloc 8406, a pro-democracy movement launched last April. He is also a member of the Progression Party of Vietnam.
His fellow accused have all admitted to being members of this party. They are: Nguyen Phong, 32 and Nguyen Binh Thanh, 51, both from Huê; the women Le Thi Le Hang, 44 i, from Huê, and Hoang Thi Anh Dao, 21 from Gialai (montagnard).
The trial lasted a single day. Fr. Van Ly, in handcuffs, refused to stand up before the court, shouting, “Down with the Vietnamese Communist Party!”. As a result police officers covered his mouth and dragged him from the courts, to a room where a video link was set up with the trial.
In an unusually open gesture, authorities allowed the press to follow excerpts of the trail via video. However when Fr. Van Ly shouted, the link was cut.
Hanoi has long been attempting to promote an image of openness to the world, following its membership of the World Trade Organization. But its’ progress is limited, and the ban on parties and organizations opposed to the Communist’s political monopoly remains.
In recent months police have arrested democratic dissidents. Among these Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, two human rights lawyers arrested on March 6th because they were found to be distributing material “dangerous to the State”.