» 03/27/2012, 00.00
Mennonite pastor sentenced to 11 years in prison
Nguyen Cong Chinh, 43, allegedly wrote and distributed material that slandered government authorities and "distorted Vietnam's domestic situation". His sentence was made worse by ties with anti-government groups. For Human Rights Watch, his conviction is "yet another demonstration" that Vietnam violates freedom of religion.
Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A
Vietnamese court has sentenced the pastor of a banned Mennonite church to 11
years in prison for undermining national unity. State media today reported Tuesday
that Nguyen Cong Chinh was found guilty of writing and spreading material that
slandered government authorities and "distorted Vietnam's domestic situation." He
was also accused of ties with anti-government groups. Rev Chinh's
conviction is the latest case of religious repression in Vietnam but not the
only one. Yesterday, Vietnamese authorities denied entry to a Vatican
commission working on the cause of beatification of Card Văn
Rev Nguyen Cong Chinh, a 43-year-old
Mennonite clergyman, was accused of sending documents to anti-government
organisations in Vietnam and overseas. "He
distorted the domestic situation, calumniating the government, the state and
the army in interviews with the foreign media," the English-language Vietnam News daily said, quoting the court.
His one-day trial was held yesterday
in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, where Chinh was arrested in April
For Human Rights Watch, Chinh's
conviction is "yet another demonstration" that Vietnam disregards freedom of
Government repression is especially hard on small
minority groups and sects that are not affiliated with state-sanctioned
Mennonites are the largest Anabaptist group, with
about 1.5 million members around the world, especially in the United States,
Canada, Africa and India. In Vietnam, they have no official status.
Today's conviction comes after the authorities cancelled
entry visas for a Vatican commission travelling to the Southeast Asian nation
to hear the cause of beatification of Card Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. Card
Peter Turkson, president
of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and was due to visit Vietnam
from 23 March to 9 April, was scheduled to lead the Holy See
Vietnamese priests who follow the Communist party elected to parliament. The faithful are angry.
The Election Commission has released the results of the 22 May general elections. Two priests will sit in the National Assembly, five more will take position at the provincial level. The decision, contrary to the directives of the bishops, undermines "the credibility of the Church." The youth are angry for the "scandal."
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In an interview with AsiaNews , Msgr . Paul Nguyen Thai Hop speaks of "a dangerous and worrying situation" for the Christians of the diocese, who are under the scrutiny of the Vietnamese authorities. He calls for the respect of human rights and the release of jailed parishioners. He also calls for " solidarity and support " for an end to " lies and slander ."
Hanoi frees prisoners of conscience on the anniversary of reunification
A young Mennonite woman and a Catholic priest are among those released. But for Amnesty International Vietnam is still far from guaranteeing freedom of religion and of expression. Nothing is known of Rev Pham Ngoc Lien who was also scheduled to be released.
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