Hanoi (AsiaNews) - After a two-day trial, the People's Court in Nghe An (central
Vietnam) convicted all 14 Catholic defendants on charges of subversion against the
state. All of them could have received the death penalty. The court instead
sentenced three-Hồ Đức Hòa, Đặng Xuân Diệu, Lê Văn Sơn-to 13 years in prison. The
other 11 received sentences ranging from three to eight years.
For many Catholic groups in Vietnam, the harsh sentence is intended to
limit freedom of expression. In fact, the 14 Catholics were accused of membership
in Viet Tan, a non-violent group that supports democracy, which the authorities
describe as "terrorist".
People who attended the trial said the defenders told the court that
their action was only meant to help people by informing them about corrupt
party and government officials who enriched themselves during the recent
For some Catholics, who were not allowed inside the courtroom (pictured), the trial was "immoral".
It is the culmination of a campaign launched by Prime Minister Nguyen
Tan Dung against dissidents and bloggers who use the internet to spread their
Some suggest that the prime minister has even set quotas for the number
of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, to be arrested in order to strike
at the community. Some of the people arrested were apparently picked up
randomly by police, some during Mass in church.
The lawyers representing the 14 Catholics on trial complained that their
clients were tortured and forced into confessing to crimes they did not commit.
Of the group of 14 on trial, 11 belong to a group that sent an appeal to
a United Nations group against arbitrary detention.
Last week, Stanford University Law professor Allan Weiner filed an
update on the group's petition to the United Nations, saying their cases
highlighted Vietnamese government's "increasing reliance on detention powers as
a means of suppressing established international human rights."
Their case shows how conditions for those engaged in non-violent
political and social activism in Vietnam are "deteriorating," he added.