11/25/2008, 00.00
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Trial against eight Catholics from Thai Ha begins December 5

The accusation is that they destroyed property and disturbed public order, but even the police left off the first charge initially. It refers to the toppling of a three-meter section of a wall, which the authorities then destroyed completely to create a public park.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - It has the feel of a political procedure, the trial that will be held on December 5 against eight Catholics who took part in the prayer vigils at the parish of Thai Ha. They are four men and four women; four of them belong to the parish of Thai Ha, two to other parishes in the capital, while the others come from other dioceses, Hung Hoa and Bac Ninh, in the north. All of them are accused of "destruction of property" and "disturbing public order."

The incidents for which the accused will be tried before the court of the district of Dong Da took place on August 15, when the faithful crossed the wall dividing the parish from the land that they were asking to have given back. At the time, the land had been given to a packaging company. The faithful removed part of the wall and moved onto the land, where they set up a small Marian shrine. There they celebrated prayer vigils "for justice," until September 1, when, after repeated attacks by activists of the communist party against the faithful (in the photo, in blue T-shirts), the land was hastily turned into a public park.

The initial police investigation dropped the charge of "destruction of property," so that, as Eglises d’Asie reports, on October 24 the accusation in front of the people's court of Dong Da mentioned only "disturbance of public order." But on October 28, evidently under political pressure, the court sent the case files back to the investigators, saying that the crime of "destruction of property" had been left out. It has since been added. Last week, the office of the assessor general of Dong Da estimated the damage caused by the distraction of the three-meter section of wall at 3 million 700 thousand Dong (about 200 dollars).

Fr. Joseph Nguyen of the parish of Thai Ha tells Vietcatholic News that "the trial is unjust,” because "the land had been, was and is still" the property of the parish. And the legal proceeding over the request for restitution is still underway. "Anyway, the local government bulldozed everything, including the wall, to convert the land into a public park," observes Sister Marie Nguyen. "Why do they insist on suing the parishioners for something that cost no more than a breakfast for a high-ranking official in Hanoi, after having jailed them for months?"

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