Vietnam 'jails four Catholics for propaganda'

By AFP
Published: May 24, 2012

The students were arrested last year for distributing pro-democracy leaflets and for criticising the Communist Party. PHOTO: FILE

HANOI: Four Vietnamese Catholic students have been jailed for up to three-and-a-half years for conducting “anti-state propaganda”, a lawyer for two of them said Thursday.

Human rights campaigners slammed the ruling, saying dozens of peaceful political activists have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam, a one-party state, launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009.

The students, aged between 22 and 25, from a small Catholic community in central Nghe An province, were arrested last year for distributing pro-democracy leaflets and for criticising the Communist Party.

After a half-day hearing, a court in Nghe An handed jail terms of three years and six months to Dau Van Duong, three years and three months to Tran Huu Duc and three years to Chu Manh Son, lawyer Tran Thu Nam told AFP.

They will be placed under house arrest for up to 18 months afterwards, said Nam, who represented two of the men.

The fourth defendant, Nguyen Hoang Phong, was given a suspended prison sentence of 18 months.

Deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, blasted the sentences, saying: “It’s outrageous the Vietnam government has again defied its international commitments to protect free speech and freedom of religion.

“The multi-year sentences meted out by Vietnam’s government-controlled courts against these four young Catholic activists should be overturned, and these men should all be unconditionally released.

“Once again justice is failing Vietnam, as more citizens exercising their rights are railroaded into prison by Vietnam’s government for actions that should not be considered crimes.”

Vietnam, which has a population of about 86 million, is a majority Buddhist nation where the government says it always respects freedom of belief and religion.

But religious activity remains under state control and some groups have complained of ill-treatment, with dozens of Catholic bloggers and activists in detention pending investigation or awaiting trial.

Reader Comments (4)

  • eyedrd
    May 24, 2012 - 10:57PM

    Basic human rights is being violated everyday that 90 million ordinary Vietnamese citizens have to endure. One cannot wonder if the 2 wars that Vietnamese fought heroically were just a waste.
    Freedom of the Press in Vietnam: 4 millions Vietnamese died in the 2 wars…for what?
    http://www.eyedrd.org/2012/02/freedom-of-the-press-in-vietnam-4-millions-vietnamese-died-in-the-2-wars-for-what.html

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  • Yeah right
    May 25, 2012 - 3:54AM

    Its catholics again! For those who dont know, without the Catholics neither the French nor the American would hardly find any friends in Vietnam during the 2 wars.

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  • yeah(human)right!
    May 25, 2012 - 5:46AM

    No surprise it’s Catholics again!

    For those who don’t know: Without the Catholics, the French and the American would hardy have gained any local help in Vietnam during the two wars.

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  • dont understand
    May 26, 2012 - 5:08AM

    it’s illegal to pass out democratic propaganda pamphlets in a communist country and they know it. What is the issue? They knew what they were getting into and they knew the consequences as most Vietnamese. When they are beaten and tortured, then i believe this would be a human rights issue. are they? Also, what does Catholicism have anything to do with the article? They weren’t arrested for being Catholic. Once again they were arrested for passing out political pamphlets against the government which they knew. Stop trying to twist and spew propaganda.

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