09/26/2013, 00.00
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Hanoi-styled religious freedom sees Catholic activists on trial, other Christians segregated at home

On 2 October, Catholic lawyer Le Quoc Quan goes on trial that had originally been set for July. The accused prepared himself by fasting and praying for a long time. He gets the support of Justice and Peace, which calls for his release. The authorities block the wife of a Mennonite clergyman inside her home to prevent her from visiting her husband in jail.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The first hearing in the trial of lawyer and Catholic human rights activist Le Quoc Quan will be held on 2 October at the Hanoi People's Court. He was arrested on false charges of tax fraud last December. Originally, the trial was scheduled to start on 9 July. The 42-year-old had observed a long period of fasting and prayer to prepare for the trial. However, the court eventually postponed the proceedings because the judge "suddenly" fell ill. Vietnamese authorities have also acted against the wife of a Mennonite clergyman from the central highlands. In prison since April 2011, he was sentenced to 11 years in March 2012.

In Vietnam, the government has been involved in a harsh, long term campaign against religious leaders, Catholic activists and entire communities as was the case in recent weeks in the Diocese of Vinh, where media and government launched a smear campaign and engaged targeted attacks against the local bishop and faithful.

The crackdown also affects single individuals, guilty of demanding the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights.

One of the foremost cases involves a Catholic lawyer. Catholic activists and believers in his home town of Vinh have organised a spiritual retreat and group prayers to win his release.

A long-time human rights and pro-democracy advocate, he has also protested against Beijing's "imperialism" in the South China Sea.

In Vinh, the Justice and Peace Commission has intervened for his release, accusing the authorities of "political repression" against a "peaceful militant".

Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia reported that Vietnamese authorities blocked the entrance to Rev Nguyen Cong Chinh's home, preventing his wife and five children from leaving the building.

The clergyman, who headed a Mennonite church banned for "undermining unity," has been in prison for two years. According his wife, police want to keep her at home to prevent any contact between her jailed husband and his family.

"This is repression," she said. "I did not do anything wrong, yet they trapped me inside and terrorise my children."

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