10/28/2010, 00.00
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Harsh sentences for six Con Dau parishioners

by Emily Nguyen
12 months for two of the accused, 9 for the other four. The trial lasted only one day and the defendants had no defense because, as a source of the People's Court explained, the decision had already been decided and approved by local authorities and the Communist Party.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Harsh sentences yesterday in Da Nang, against the six Catholics involved in the incident last May in Con Dau, two of them have to serve 12 months in prison, the other four will spend nine months in prison. Hundreds of police in riot gear were deployed around the People's Court.

The President of the Court, Tan Thi Thu Dung, found them guilty of inciting riots, falsely accusing the government and inciting others to attack the police. The defendants protested their innocence, pointing out that the incidents were caused by officers who had attacked a peaceful funeral.

The accused could not have a lawyer because the lawyer Cu Huy Vu, who offered to take on their defense was demied permission to do so. The lawyer reported that an anonymous source in the same court explained to defendants that their defense was not necessary because the sentence for each of them had been previously decided and approved by the local government and the Communist Party.

Thousands of Catholics, yesterday, took part in prayer vigils to protest against the ruling in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (see photo). They were also joined non-Catholics, outraged by the unjust sentence.

Yesterday, the postponement of the trial and the request for an explanation of "how it is legally possible to take possession of land, houses, a church and cemetery and hand them over to a company, Sun Investment Corporation, which intends to build a tourist resort” had been advanced by the President of Justice and Peace Commission of the Vietnamese bishops, Mgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop.

An explanation was provided by lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu. Speaking to the BBC, the lawyer said that the real cause of the Con Dau incident is the widespread and bold seizure of land by local authorities. Now, according to law, "all land belongs to the people and the state manages it”. In fact, local authorities take lands that wet the appetites of companies and hand them over to businesses. In a country where every Party assembly promises to fight corruption.

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See also
Vietnamese bishops ask government to "explain" Con Dau situation
Trial against six Catholics from Dau, deprived of their homes and beaten by police
A Con Dau Catholic dies shortly after being released by police
Con Dau Catholics sentence confirmed on appeal
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