02/17/2014, 00.00
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Thousands of Vietnamese, Christian and non, march for the release of Catholic lawyer

by TT
The Redemptorists in Hanoi and Saigon organize a candlelight vigil and pray for the release of Le Quoc Quan . Tomorrow the appeal process begins, concern over his state of health, physically weakened by two weeks of hunger strike. Hospitals in the capital refuse medical treatment to a Hmong Christian leader.

Hanoi (AsiaNews ) - At least 3 thousand Vietnamese, Christian and non, have joined the candlelight vigil organized yesterday by the Redemptorist priests in Hanoi and Saigon. The participants prayed for the health of Le Quoc Quan and many other activists, dissidents, journalists and bloggers in prison for their battle for the defense of human rights and religious freedom in the country.

Tomorrow, February 18, the first hearing of the appeal process for the Catholic lawyer is scheduled to take place. Convicted on (false) charges of tax fraud, he has been on hunger strike since February 2 to protest the prison authority's refusal to provide him with legal and religious texts, including the Bible. His family and lawyers warn the state of his health his "worrying".

Catholic sources report that he is very "weak" from lack of food and the seasonally cold and wet climate in Hanoi. In addition, the prison authorities have repeatedly prevented him from meeting his lawyers (the last episode dates back to February 14), ahead of his appearance before the Court of Appeal . His case, along with that of hundreds of other dissidents and activists, has galvanized popular discontent towards the Communist leadership and the regime in Vietnam.

Periodically arrested and released after short periods in the past, Le Quoc Quan was detained again by Vietnamese government officials December 27, 2012 , with false and trumped-up charges of " tax evasion" an act strongly condemned by many pro - human rights associations around the world . The sentence of 30 months in prison and a hefty fine (56 thousand dollars) arrived on October 2, at the end of a lightning trial that lasted a mere two hours. International organizations, groups of Catholic activists and representatives of the main religions in Vietnam have come to the defense of the dissident, who had fasted and prayed for a long time ahead of the trial..

In recent days, the story of a Hmong Christian leader who was rejected urgent treatment in hospitals in the capital has also emerged. Duong Van Minh, 52, suffers from a severe kidney disease.  His relatives tried to have him admitted to various hospitals, but none wanted to hospitalize him. Originally from the northern province of Tuyen Quang, he was a guest of the community of Redemptorists in Hanoi; it seems that there is a long-standing dispute between the Vietnamese authorities and the religious minority, on the arrangements for the burial of the dead, is behind the refusal to treat him.

In the past, the Hmong leader spent five years in prison (1990-1995) and has been repeatedly arrested and detained for questioning. During a previous admission to a military hospital, the police forced him to pay for medical expenses for his treatment.

The Vietnamese government has been pursuing a harsh campaign against dissidents, bloggers, religious leaders (including Buddhists), Catholic activists and entire communities. A clear example of this was seen last year in the diocese of Vinh, where national media and the government promoted a smear campaign and targeted attacks against the bishop and faithful. The repression also affects individuals guilty of claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights and ethnic minorities such as the Hmong are targeted by Hanoi authorities because they are accused of collaborating with the United States during the war .


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