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    » 07/06/2010, 00.00

    VIETNAM

    A Con Dau Catholic dies shortly after being released by police

    J.B. An Dang

    Nguyen Nam was one of the faithful arrested, harassed and beaten since last May, following protests raised by the authorities' decision to use the area of the ancient cemetery of the village to build a tourist centre.

    Da Nang (AsiaNews) - Nam Nguyen, a Catholic from Con Dau parish, in the Diocese of Da Nang died last Saturday, just hours after being released by police. The man, already in recent months, had been arrested, beaten and threatened by agents, following protests from residents over the closure of the cemetery of the parish and the announced destruction of their homes to build a tourist centre.

    It all started earlier this year, with the local authorities decision to demolish all the houses in the parish, created 135 years ago to build the resort, without offering fair compensation or aid for resettlement. The cemetery of the parish covers an area of 10 hectares, about a mile from the church. For 135 years it has been the only burial place for the faithful and in the past, it was listed in the historical sites protected by the government. Until March 10, when security agents put a sign at the entrance of the cemetery with the inscription "Burials are forbidden in this area". When a parishioner went to protest, the head of the police sprayed tear gas in his face, causing him to faint.

    On May 4, during the procession for the funeral of Mary Tan, 82, police intervened to prevent the burial in the cemetery. For almost an hour there were clashes (pictured) between the 500 parishioners and agents, leaving many Catholics wounded and 59 people arrested. The coffin was taken from the woman's family and was later cremated, against the wishes she had expressed, to be buried next to her husband and members of his family, in the old parish cemetery.

    The Vietnamese government denied that there were Catholics arrested or injured. According to the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Nguyen Phuong Nga, "this information is false and aimed only at slandering Vietnam". "The truth - he said - is that this affair has nothing to do with religion”.

    Instead the incident was denounced by the bishop of Da Nang in central Vietnam, Mgr. Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri, who in a pastoral letter of May 6 condemned the incident and asked the faithful and controlling authorities to avoid further violence. "The police went in search of other faithful," wrote the bishop.

    His claims were backed up by the news that on May 17, six parishioners were charged by the authorities of the province of Da Nang for "disturbing public order" and "attacking state security and administration personnel who were carrying out their duties according to law. "

    Among the six, Nam Nguyen, who was arrested and released. Subsequently he was again summoned by the officials, who tried to force him to lay charges against other faithful. Upon his refusal he was savagely beaten. Saturday he was released and a few hours later, he died. Fear now reigns in the village.

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    See also

    28/07/2009 VIETNAM
    Priest beaten into a coma by police. Catholics Protest throughout Vietnam
    Thousands of the faithful take part in demonstrations and prayer vigils in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The priest in a coma was beaten and then hurled from the 2nd floor of a hospital. Another was savagely beaten while 30 policemen stood by watching. The Diocese of Vinh publicly denounces the episode.

    29/07/2009 VIETNAM
    Death threats against believers in Dong Hoi, as the police arrest a Catholic
    The Catholic arrested used his home for religious gatherings. The government of Quang Binh wants to eliminate Catholics from its territory.

    10/08/2009 VIETNAM
    More protest vigils in the diocese of Vinh. Difficult glimmers of dialogue with the government
    A candlelight vigil throughout the 178 parishes of the diocese of Vinh to demand an end to violence against Catholics and the release of 3 faithful kept in prison. The government of Quang Binh invites representatives of the clergy to speak, but there are fears for the safety of the priests.

    15/01/2010 VIETNAM
    Authorities deny attack on the parishioners of Dong Chiem
    The vice president of the local People's Committee said that the cross was destroyed had been built illegally on public land and that the parish has rejected attempts to dialogue. But the archbishop of Hanoi insists that the hill has belonged to the church for more than one hundred years and the head of the Communist Party of Dong Chiem confirms the raid on the faithful.

    08/01/2009 VIETNAM
    New directive from Hanoi on Church property: nothing will be given back
    A norm, with obscure provisions, affirms that the use of ecclesiastical property granted by the state to "organizations" must respect the purpose of this property, and not offend the sentiments of the faithful. Who will be harshly punished if they protest.



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