08/24/2009, 00.00
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Catholic priest from Hue defends activists humiliated on State TV

by J.B. An Dang
They "confessed" their crimes against the Vietnamese government and appealed for "clemency". They are all part of Block 8406, an illegal movement for democracy. The priest, who also risks jail, defends them: the confessions were extracted under torture.

Hue (AsiaNews) - A Catholic priest from the diocese of Hue (Central Vietnam) has denounced the shows on TV where some dissidents were forced to confess their "crimes" and ask the state’s  forgiveness. Now even the priest is likely to be imprisoned.

Fr. Peter Phan Van Loi, from Hue diocese told AsiaNews: "We know that the state police and the media are deliberately targeting these democracy activists to influence public opinion against them. They are taking over the role of Public Prosecutor and this is illegal. These forced confessions, then, have no real meaning. The merely reveal the dark and brutal face of this government. "

On the evening of August 19, a 10 minute television broadcast showed five recently arrested democracy activists who "with bowed heads  admitted their crimes against the Vietnamese State". The day after the news was reported with great emphasis in the more than 700 newspapers and government publications. The Vietnamese Communist Party newspaper, Nhan Dan, listing their names, concluded that they "have pleaded guilty and appealed for clemency”.

The five activists who have apparently admitted guilt are: Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, former General Director of the OIC Company (Ho Chi Minh City), Le Cong Dinh, a lawyer; Le Thang Long, General Director of Innotech company, residing in the residential quarter of the Hanoi Polytechnic University; Nguyen Tien Trung, 26 year-old former soldier, a resident of Than Binh (Ho Chi Minh City) and Tran Anh Kim, 60, former Lieutenant Colonel in Vietnam’s Communist Army, of Thai Binh.

All of these dissidents have been arrested in recent months on charges of "threatening national security." In reality they distributed flyers, displayed banners, wrote poems and pro-democracy articles on the internet. All of them are connected in one way or another to the illegal group Bloc 8406, a movement with 2 thousand members, which supports freedom of expression and a multiparty system in Vietnam.

These activists are well known and admired among Vietnamese people for their courage. For this reason, the public confessions have surprised many people. But Fr. Phan Van Loi, states: "We can not accuse them of being cowards only because we have seen them in a television broadcast. These confessions are always extracted under pressure and torture".

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Vietnamese government to release all pro-democracy activists arrested in recent months, and guarantee them freedom of expression. According to HRW, Fr. Phan Van Loi also risks arrest.

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