10/14/2019, 17.42
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Catholics praying for music teacher who could get 12 years in prison

by Viet Hung

Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh, 43, actively participated in social outreach and charity work in various parishes in the Diocese of Vinh. According to the authorities, he is a member of “opposition groups”. For his wife, “My husband does not do wrong things. He also does not violate the laws of Vietnam.”

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese Church is praying, rallying around the family of a music teacher and Catholic activist who is set to go on trial on Thursday before a People's Court in Nghệ An province on charges of "propaganda against the state".

Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh (pictured), 43, is accused of “Making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State of Socialist Republic of Vietnam” (Article 117 of the Criminal Code). If convicted, he could get up to 12 years in prison.

According to the authorities, he is a member of "opposition groups" such as the outlawed Viet Tân democratic movement. Investigators also accuse him of performing songs with contents that distort “the policy and guidance of state and party ".

A married father of one, Tĩnh taught at the Nghệ An College of Art and Culture. He was arrested by the police in Nghệ An, central-northern Vietnam, on 29 May during breakfast with his son. Since then, the teacher has been in isolation and only recently has he been able to meet his lawyer.

On 17 September, the authorities ended the investigation and formally charged him. His wife, Nguyễn Thị Tình, rejects the accusations. "My husband,” she says, “does not do wrong things. He also does not violate the laws of Vietnam".

Tĩnh is a pro-democracy and human rights activist. He is a member of groups such as NoU FC Vinh, Nhóm Bảo Vệ Sự Sống (Save Life), Quy Phát Triển Con Người (Human Development Fund) and Truyền Thông Công Giáo (Catholic media).

A few days ago, Human Right Watch reported that Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh’s arrest is aimed at anyone who criticises the government. This is a part of a crackdown against advocates of democracy and multi-party politics.

In the first six months of 2019, Vietnam’s Public Security Ministry charged at least 11 people who spoke out against the injustice of the country’s dictatorship.

“I met Mr Tĩnh a few times when I came to Nghệ An Province,” said H. Viet, an activist. “I remember in early 2013, he took me to visit 14 families of young Catholics and Protestants who had been arrested and harshly tried in court.”

"When I worked with him, I realised that this teacher had visited many of their families. He encouraged and supported family members in difficult times. These families are very grateful and fond of him."

The teacher actively participated in social outreach and charity work in several parishes in the Diocese of Vinh. Likewise, he gave his time to Catholic pro-life associations. With the volunteers of Nhóm Bảo Vệ Sự Sống, he encouraged young women to raise their children and reject the culture of abortion.

Nguyễn Năng Tĩnh is much loved in the local Catholic community. On Wednesday, believers, benefactors, and friends from scores of parishes in the Diocese of Vinh and even from Hà Tĩnh province and the capital Hà Nội expressed their affection by visiting his father, Nguyễn Ngọc Định.

Priests and former prisoners of conscience such as Lê Đình Lượng, Hoàng Bình and Trần Thị Xuân joined the group. Everyone gathered in prayer for Tĩnh.

On the same day, some priests celebrated Mass in Thuận Giang parish (Diocese of Vinh) asking for peace and justice for Vietnam’s former prisoners of conscience and for people persecuted because of their religion.

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