09/28/2012, 00.00
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Vietnamese Court upholds sentence against three young Catholics

Judges confirm sentence for two defendants; reduce prison term to six months for the third. A trial for "propaganda against the state" and distributing "anti-government leaflets." The faithful of Vinh demand their release. Rumors, unconfirmed, of five arrests among those who tried to gain access to the courtroom.

Hanoi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Vietnamese court has upheld the sentence on appeal, handed down at first instance in May, against three young Catholic activists, guilty - according to the Communist authorities - for "propaganda against the state" and distributing "anti-government leaflets." The hearing was held on September 26 at the Nghe An province People's Court, in the north of the country. In recent weeks even the Vinh diocese' Commission for Justice and Peace had campaigned for their release, appealing for an appeal "in accordance with international law" and their subsequent release "because they are  innocent people."

The court upheld the initial sentence for Antonie Dau Van Duong and Pierre Tran Huu Duc.  The sentence of the third Catholic, Chu Manh Son, was instead reduced to six months. The fourth defendant, however, preferred not to appeal, for fear of an even harsher punishment being meeted out. The Catholics of the diocese of Vinh tried to gain access to the court, but a heavy deployment of police and the lack of transportation hindered the faithful. Unconfirmed reports speak of five or six people arrested.

To date, only four out of 17 Christian activists, who were arrested by the police in June 2011, have undergone trial. The first trial was held May 25 in Nghe An province people's court (see AsiaNews 25/05/2012 Four Catholic activists, on trial for "propaganda against the state", are sentenced "). In accordance with Articles 88 and 79 of the Penal Code, the judges issued a sentence of 42 months in prison, plus 18 months probation for Antonie Dau Van Duong, 39 months in prison and one year of probation to Tran Huu Duc; 36 months and one year of probation to Chu Manh Son, and finally Hoang Phong, was sentenced to 18 months.

For Catholic leaders, the first trial was a "sham" in which civil rights enshrined in the Constitution were violated: freedom of speech, press, assembly and information. The young people were only expressing personal opinions and could - in theory - rely on the basic human rights. They are "good students" and come from "poor and hard-working" families.


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