Fr Van Ly sentenced on 30 March 2007 to eight years in prison, and five years under house arrest, after he was convicted of promoting a pro-democracy movement called Bloc 84-06. The group was founded in April 2006 and has a membership of some 2,000. He was also convicted for supporting illegal organisations like the Progressive Party of Vietnam.
Between 1977 and 2004, he spent 14 years in prison for defending religious freedom and human rights in the Communist nation.
The image of the handcuffed clergyman, a police agent with a hand over his mouth (pictured), on trial for protesting against persecution by the Communist regime made him famous around the world.
Since his trial, the government has tried to encourage the idea that the Vatican and the local archbishop were in favour of the sentence; in reality, the diocese has steadfastly fought for his release.
In a press release today, the archbishop and the clergy of Hue welcomed Fr Van Ly, whose health is very frail. He will now be staying at a retreat centre run by the diocese.