Hanoi frees two Catholic activists, four years in jail for "anti-government activities"
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Two young activists Vietnamese Catholics have left prison in recent days, after serving their entire four-year sentence in prison for attempts to "overthrow the communist government" in power in Hanoi.
In spite of the sentence imposed under the controversial article 79 of the Penal Code, they have always denied the charge and promise that, once out of prison, they will continue their fight for democracy and human and civil rights in the Asian country.
Tran Nhat Minh was arrested on 27 August 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison and three probation. From his cell, he repeatedly denounced the prison conditions, resulting in hunger strikes and other forms of protests. He was refused certain reading materials - the Bible and the lives of saints - and was abused by the guards. He was released together with Thai Van Dung, arrested on 19 August 2011 and sentenced to four years in prison and four probation.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA) Tran Minh Nhat says that from the earliest days of the arrest, the authorities exerted pressure to get him to sign a "confession" acknowledging his "guilt", in exchange for a "reduction in his sentence ". However, he always "refused".
Released on August 19, Thai Van Dung said that "in prison I understood that there will never be progress or civilization in a society, if that society is not based on equality, justice and love between people."
The two young activists are part of a group of 17 Christians - Catholics and Protestants – arrested and jailed in the second half of 2011. None of these have so far benefited from a pardon or reduction of sentences. Those who have been released – including the famous Catholic blogger and activist Paulus Le Van Son- have served the terms of their sentence.
Meanwhile Dang Xuan Dieu and I Duc Hoa remain in prison They were arrested during the crackdown by Hanoi in 2011. They must serve 13 years in prison, the most severe penalty imposed on members of the movement. Their story - such as those of Le Quoc Quan, Cu Huy Ha Vu and dozens of other bloggers and activists in prison - testifies to the iron fist has long been used by Communist leaders against internal dissent.
The authorities have also targeted Buddhist and Catholics religious leaders, as well as entire communities. Last year for example, both media and government launched a smear campaign and targeted attacks against the local bishop and Catholics in the diocese of Vinh.
Repression also affects many individuals, who are penalised for claiming the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens' civil rights.
According to the activist international movement Human Rights Watch (HRW) currently there are between 150 and 200 bloggers and activists detained in Vietnamese prisons, guilty of having wanted to exercise (and defend) basic human rights.