» 03/09/2012, 00.00
Two Vietnamese Catholics convicted of "anti-government" activities: "false accusations"
The two, a woman and a young man, are accused of distributing leaflets compiled by Fr. Van Ly, currently in prison, against the Communist Party. The priest denies knowing the woman. In fact, she was condemned for advocating the rights of the Church in Tam Toa (Vinh diocese).
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Two Vietnamese Catholics have been sentenced to jail for distributing anti-government material. AsiaNews sources say, however, that the charges - at least for one of them - are false and it is only a government vendetta toward Catholics who defend the rights of the Church.
Ms. Thuy Vo Thi Thu, 50, and Nguyen Van Thanh, 28, on March 6 were sentenced to five and three years imprisonment respectively by a court in the central province of Nghe An. The two were arrested in 2011 and were accused of distributing leaflets slandering the Chinese Communist Party and its leadership. According to the court, the leaflets were prepared by Fr. Nguyen Van Ly, a priest who for years has been fighting for a democratic, multiparty system in Vietnam. For this Fr. Van Ly, now very ill, has undergone several previous convictions. To date he is in prison, having been arrested on July 25, 2011.
AsiaNews sources in Vietnam say that the charges against Ms. Vo are false. "When she was arrested, I asked Fr. Van Ly - free at the time - if he knew her and he said no and that he had never spoken with her."
In fact, according to sources, Ms Vo was sentenced because of her commitment to the rights of the Church.
In July 2009, Vo and dozens of other Catholics were arrested in the diocese of Vinh for having erected a cross and an altar on the ground of a church destroyed during the war and that the government wanted to seize to build a luxury residential center (see: 21/07/2009 Beatings and arrests of priests and faithful in the historic church of Tam Toa). In prison, Ms. Vo was, along with the others, savagely beaten and then released. The accusation of having taken action "against the government" is just a trick to punish a Catholic person without arousing criticism from the Christian community.
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The priest, a symbol of the struggle for religious freedom and democracy in Vietnam is semi-paralyzed, but can speak and responds to treatment. He was admitted to the military hospital in Hanoi and is being followed by the chief of cardiology. Family members report that he is "well treated" and "thanks" the doctors.
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The priest, one of the founders of a movement for democracy that calls for an end to single party rule, is serving a sentence of 8 years in prison. He was released last year for serious health condition.
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