Vinh (AsiaNews) -
Disappointment, anger, dismay: this is the reaction of family, priests and
parishioners in My yen following the sentence imposed on two Vietnamese
Catholics in prison for months, for having fought in favor of human rights and
religious freedom. The
entire Vietnamese Catholic community had fought for their release and their
story, thanks to the commitment and testimony of the Bishop of Vinh Msgr. Paul
Nguyen Thai Hop, had garnered international interest. However,
a court in the coastal region in north-central Vietnam issued the verdict on
charges of "disturbing" public order. A
specious charge frequently used by judges and by the communist authorities to
silence dissent and free voices in the country.
On 23 October, the judges of the Court of Vinh , capital of the province of Nghe An, sentenced 53 year old Ngo Van Khoi to seven months in prison and Nguyen Van Hai , 43, to six months in jail (pictured a time of trial ) . The hearing lasted about three hours in a closed-door trial that not even the family were informed of.
The two were arrested last June, in the weeks after the authorities had announced their release on several occasions but never carried out their promise. Their failure to release the two sparked animated protests violently repressed by Vietnamese police, as happened on September 4 with numerous injuries and several arrests. In response to the faithful - steadfast in supporting priests and diocesan leaders in the fight for the freedom of the parishioners - celebrated Masses and prayer vigils, attended by tens of thousands of people .
Vietnamese media also launched a heavy smear campaign against the bishop, while the Nghe An provincial authorities sought to isolate the prelate from the Conference of Bishops and obtain his expulsion . A position that united the Vietnamese bishops even more and gave rise to demonstrations of solidarity, respect and closeness from the prelates nationwide, including the Bishop of Kontum .
Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA ) the children of Khoi say they are shocked by the verdict, pointing out that both their father as his friend Hai "are innocent" , they have appealed to all competent authorities, at all levels, for their release. The family adds that it became aware of the trial from some villagers, not of the Catholic faith, who expressed " sadness " because they were not allowed access to the court for the trial.
According to reports, a village official revealed to some people - but not Catholics - that the judges were preparing to prosecute the two parishioners, but have refrained from informing the men's relatives . A local priest speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the two "are innocent " and that "they should be released".