03/02/2013, 00.00
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Thousands sign petition for release of jailed Vietnamese Catholics

The non-partisan and apolitical initiative launched by family members and is divided into two groups, active in the north and south of the country. Among signatories, two bishops and a Buddhist religious leader, member of a group persecuted by Hanoi. The promoters speak of spurious sentence and illegal trial.

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Family and friends of the Catholics sentenced to prison for subversion in January have launched a public awareness campaign, which includes a petition signed by Christian and Buddhist religious leaders. The goal, say organizers, is to spread awareness of the case among the civilian population and win, first of all, the interest and the commitment of the Vietnamese people. The initiative was publicized by the younger brother of one of the people in prison; approached by the online radio Radio Free Asia (RFA), he said that the indictment is unjust, based on trumped-up charges which open the prison doors to "innocent" people.

The public awareness movement kicked off on Jan. 27, with a petition entitled "Protest against an illegal trial, which was held in Vinh on 8 and 9 January 2013." The organizers denounced the use of "illegal procedures" for the arrest and unjust conviction of the group. The organizer's intention is not only to raise awareness about the case but also mobilize "as many people as possible" for the sake of prisoners.

Today there are two groups involved in the campaign: the first works in the north of Vietnam, while the second in the south of the country. In promoting the petition, organizers clearly state that the do not belong to any "political organizations or movements," but to aim to express the "opinions and sentiments" of their family members. By mid-February over 10 thousand signatures had been collected, among two Catholic bishops and a religious leader from the Buddhist Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (Cubv), not recognized by the government and often subject to persecution and abuse. The Venerable Thich Khong Tanh  wanted to join the campaign to "defend justice and democracy in the country."


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