08/29/2011, 00.00
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Catholic activists and students to be put on trial very soon

by J.B. An Dang
According to the authorities, the accused are guilty of trying to “overthrow the people’s administration”. Jailed in the capital, they are also charged with links with the Viet Tan, a banned US-based party. However, the latter’s secretary denies any link. As Catholic hold torchlight processions across the country, Redemptorist Father says protests against human rights abuses and violations will continue.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – A group of Vietnamese Catholics taken into custody a few weeks ago by police are set to go on trial shortly on charges of trying to “overthrow the people’s administration”. In the past week, Vietnamese authorities have cracked down on dissidents, arresting dozens of people. Catholics and Protestants are among those detained; they were protesting against the seizure of Church property and the Vietnamese government’s subordination to China over maritime borders in the South China Sea.

Recently, police said that a group of Catholics from Vinh diocese, arrested in late July and currently held at Hanoi’s 14 B temporary internment camp, would go before a court for trying to “overthrow the people’s administration”, in accordance with Clause 2, Article 79, of the Vietnam Penal Code. The five men are Peter Ho Duc Hoa, 37, Jean Baptiste Nguyen Van Oai, 31, Francis Dang Xuan Dieu, 32, Peter Nguyen Xuan Anh, 29, and Joseph Nguyen Van Duyet, 31.

All five are accused of membership in the US-based (Viet Tan) Vietnam Reform Party and “working to overthrow the people’s administration through non-violence”. However, Viet Tan’s secretary Ly Thai Hung told the BBC that the arrested Catholics had not tie with his organisation.

In recent weeks, Vietnamese authorities have arrested and tried many activists, using the power of mass media to reiterate “false charges” against them in order to discredit their action.

Fr Le Ngoc Thanh, spokesman for the Redemptorists of Vietnam, has slammed the government’s oppressive practices, calling on the authorities to release unconditionally the jailed Catholics.

Looking at the ‘Risen Christ’, the clergyman told AsiaNews, “We are raising our voice against the violations of the law by the police, which is arresting and jailing people,” and “turning a peaceful nation into a place where kidnapping and terrorism happen everywhere”.

Sources close to the families of those arrested said that the prisoners are allowed to received food and clothing but not prayer books. Still, they are able to hold their spirits high.

The same Hanoi prison holds Catholic journalist r Paulus Le Son, who was arrested on 3 August for allegedly belonging to Viet Tan.

Peter Nguyen Huu Duc, Anthony Dau Van Duong and Anthony Chu Manh Son are among the arrested Catholic students and are said to be in Nghi Kim Prison, in Nghe An Province.

The fate of two young Protestant students, Do Thi Luong and Anh Hung, is unknown.

Christians and ordinary Vietnamese have organised torchlight processions and prayer vigils across the country to demand the release of Catholic and Protestant activists and students.
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