ASIA NEWS REPORT:
by J. B. An Dang
people received sentences ranging from 18 to 42 months in prison, followed by a
period of probation. Thousands of people attended the trial outside the court,
brandishing slogans of protest. Families announce the appeal. Vietnamese
bishops: the arbitrary application of the law results in
Hanoi (AsiaNews) - A Vietnamese court has sentenced four Catholic activists
of Vinh, under Article 88 of the Penal Code for distributing "anti-government
leaflets" and conducting "propaganda against the state" (see AsiaNews
Catholic activists on trial for "propaganda against the state"). The young
people - college students or recent graduates - appeared yesterday before the
judges of the province of Nghe An, in the north of the country. According to
prosecutors, they were active in the Redemptorist News information
network and volunteers of a Pro-Life movement, which is fighting for the
protection of human life. Their claims of innocence during the trial and the
protests of thousands of Christians activists camped outside the courthouse
awaiting the verdict proved to no avail.
Local witnesses reported that
Duong Van Dau received a sentence of 42 months in prison, followed by 18 months'
probation, Tran Huu Duc 39 months in prison and one year of probation; Chu Manh
Son 36 months in prison and one year of probation, and finally Hoang Phong,
sentenced to 18 months.
In spite of months of preventive detention
awaiting trial, the four activists have received support and solidarity from the
Vietnamese Catholics, public opinion - which appreciates the work done for the
benefit of society and the poor - and the international community. Thousands of
faithful from Thai Ha and Hanoi camped outside the court, trying to gain access
as per the authorities' promise of open proceedings in court.
only close relatives were allowed to attend the hearing, the majority, including
Fr. Anthony Nguyen Van Nien and Fr. Francis Xavier Hoang SI Huong, Cau Ram
parish, were forced to remain outside reciting rosaries and brandishing placards
reading "My brother is innocent" and "We protest against the arbitrary and
illegal arrests of innocent people."
The police finally decided to allow
them entrance inside the outer courtyard of the court, because the protests
staged outside were attracting the attention of passersby and onlookers.
Immediately after the trial ended, the families of the condemned announced their
intention to appeal, noting that the punishment is not comparable to the alleged
In recent days, the Justice and Peace Committee of
the Vietnamese bishops' conference has also intervened in the court system of
the country, stressing that "if the application of the law remains arbitrary and
does not the rule of law closely" it ends up causing "many aberrations, which
eventually push people beyond the limits ". The bishops denounced the "arbitrary
arrests", which violates both the Penal Code as well as the international
conventions signed by Vietnam.
SOURCE: ASIA NEWS