07/19/2006, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Montagnard Christian "must remain in jail" even after death

The police of Ha Nam caused the death of a 62-year-old Degar man in prison. They did not allow his wife to take the body to give it a Christian burial because the body "must remain in prison until his sentence is up".

Habong (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese police arrested, tortured and caused the death in prison of a Christian Montagnard, denying his widow the possibility of giving him a Christian burial because "he had to remain in prison until the time of his sentence had passed". This was revealed by the Montagnard Foundation, which for years has lobbied for the religious freedom of the Montagnard people and is constantly monitoring their plight.

Siu Lul, 62 years, came from the village of Ploi Kueng. He was imprisoned in Ha Nam prison in 2004: throughout his imprisonment, he was denied food and drink for long periods and was tortured to death. He died on 24 April 2006.

On the day of his death, his widow was called by the police who demanded money in exchange for handing over his body: as she had no money, Siu Lul was buried in prison. In May 2006, the woman returned with the money demanded, but the police said her husband had to remain buried in Ha Nam "until his sentence was up".

Another member of the Montagnard Degar community called Siu Dolel, from Ploi Oi village was arrested and taken to the same prison on 22 December 2004.  Police tortured him with electric batons to death; he died on 25 June 2006. Some officers went to his widow and asked her for money if she wanted to see his body before burial. The widow, who was very poor, was unable to pay the sum requested so the police confiscated her identity card.

"These two cases really show the hatred of the Vietnamese towards Degar [a Montagnard ethnic group] people," said the foundation. "They have experienced confiscation of their lands and they are arrested, imprisoned and tortured for their Christian faith."

The organization said more than 350 Degar people are currently in prison: the alternative they are offered by their torturers is to forsake their faith.

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