Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom in Vietnam denounces the serious health condition of Fr. Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly. The 63 year-old priest, one of the most important political prisoners in the country, has spent 15 years in prison for his fight in defence of human rights. "Now as never before – reads the recently published report - his mental and physical conditions are rapidly deteriorating."
Father Van Ly, from Nguyet Bieu parish, Hue diocese, was sentenced March 30, 2007 to eight years in prison and five of house arrest on charges of founding a movement for democracy, called "Bloc 8406", in April 2006. Today this movement has 2 thousand members, and it supports illegal groups such as the Progressive Party of Vietnam.
Previously he had spent 14 years in prison - between 1977 and 2004 - for his battles in defence of religious freedom and human rights in the communist country. The image of the handcuffed priest in the courts, being silenced by a policeman while protesting against the persecutions of the communist regime made him famous throughout the world.
Among the dozens of political prisoners being held in Vietnamese prisons for alleged "propaganda activities against the state", the case of Fr Van Ly is perhaps the most controversial and infamous. Since his sentencing, the priest has had no contact with the outside world except for the prison guards and the occasional visits of family members. He has repeatedly suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed on one side of his body, a disability exacerbated by lack of medical care in prison.
Human rights activists report an increase in the trials and sentences of the communist regime against members who are fighting for democracy and freedom of speech in Vietnam. A clampdown linked, perhaps, to the national party congress scheduled for early 2011. Recently Fr. Van Ly has refused to cooperate with the medical staff of the prison, because he does not believe in the professionalism of the doctors sent by the State. A decision also in protest against what he calls his "unjust imprisonment."
During their last visit, on February 1, the family of the priest reported an "emotional outbursts". He has also announced a hunger strike to protest against "the extreme cruelty of the government." Fr. Van Ly while stressing the support of other political prisoners and communion with the Catholic Church in the battle for justice and religious freedom. " "He asks us to pray every day - concludes the U.S. report - for the victims of communist persecution and to pray for him."