06/09/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM

Another Vietnamese Catholic human rights advocate on trial

by Philip Blair
Peter Pham Minh Hoang, professor at the University of Ho Chi Minh City is accused of activities aimed at overthrowing the government and of joining a democracy group. His arrest has caused concern and protests worldwide. Fears that the sentence has been decided before the start of the trial.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The Vietnamese authorities are preparing to try another Catholic human rights advocate. On 14 June, in fact, Peter Pham Minh Hoang (pictured), professor at the University of Ho Chi Minh City will be brought to court. In the words of his wife, he was concerned over social injustice and corruption.

The professor has been held in prison in an undisclosed location since August 13, 2010, under Article. 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code on charges of participating in a banned political group. Even before the arrest, the authorities had threatened to jail him unless he admitted to joining the group called Democracy for Viet Tan (New Vietnam). Article. 79 of the Criminal Code condemns activities aimed at overthrowing the government.

Professor Hoang is known for his dedication in educating the young. He is said to have given active support to the protests against the mining of bauxite in the Central Highlands and has participated in a conference organized by the archdiocese of Saigon, which discussed the issue of Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos. His wife reports that the police are also investigating the courses that he offered to his students.

Vietnamese Catholics see in the arrest and detention of Professor Hoang, who is also a French citizen, a direct consequence of his commitment to defending human rights and territorial integrity of the country, in the context of a growing number of attacks against human rights defenders. All protests have proven useless, even at the international level by some groups, including the Committee of Concerned Scientists, against the illegal detention of Hoang, to whom family members report a worsening of the professor’s physical and mental condition in the prison.

His family and his friends and colleagues defend his innocence and pledge to help in the next trial knowing that, like other defenders of democracy, in all probability the sentence has been written before the trial has even begun.

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