05/22/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Vietnamese Catholics pray for release of Vinh Christian activists

by Paul N. Hung
On 23 May, after several postponements, eight of the 14 arrested appear before the judges of the Supreme Court. International organizations, pro human rights movements and the faithful ask for their release. The repression of the authorities also affects bloggers, patriots and "peaceful dissidents."

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Catholics, human rights activists, members of civil society and international organizations continue their mobilization for the release of 14 Christian activists - 13 Catholic and a Protestant - sentenced to various prison terms, for a maximum of 13 years in prison. After numerous delays the next hearing of eight defendants is scheduled for May 23. They will appear before the judges of the Supreme Court of Vinh, Nghe An province, northern Vietnam. In this month of May, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Asian nation's Festival of Flowers, the Catholic community is uniting around the young people, imprisoned on charges of "subversion" against the state, and are appealing to the government in Hanoi to free these people completely innocent of these charges.

Activists and international organizations have spared no criticism of the government for the illegal arrest and subsequent sentencing. Groups of citizens recall that "local authorities exploit the use of paramilitary forces to arrest and prosecute the action [policy] of dissidents and patriots." They point the finger at the unfairness of the conviction, in the face of non-existent evidence and unfounded accusations.

European countries, Asian and international pro-human rights committees have taken up the defense of the 14 Christian activists, to demand their release and an end to unfair trials perpetrated on the basis of false accusations. So far over 30 thousand signatures have been collected, demanding the communist authorities intercede for their release.

The story of young Christians in prison - and pending appeal - is tied to the arbitrary imprisonment of activists and nationalists, guilty only of having peacefully protested against Beijing's "imperialist" aggression in the  South China Sea. They include the 21-year old Catholic student Nguyen Phuong Uyen and Dinh Nguyen Kha as well as 36 other bloggers accused of online crimes and "peaceful dissidents" in jail for crimes of opinion.

For the release of activists and Christians, in recent days the Vietnamese Catholic community has gathered in prayer; on May 19 a special Mass was held in the parish of Thai Ha - already at the center of a dispute with the local government for the possession certain land and the Carmel monastery - which was attended by over a thousand faithful. The provincial superior of the Redemptorists asked faithful to pray to the Virgin Mary for the good of the Church, the faithful and of the whole country.

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