Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fr. Nguyen Van Ly arrested

Nhan Dan, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Vietnam reported Feb. 26 that dissident Catholic priest Fr. Nguyen Van Ly has been arrested in Hue, accused "of carrying out propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam according to point C, item 1, article 88 of the Penal Code. "

That Fr. Ly's only crime is to dissent from the ruling party in Vietnam is evident even in the official denunciation of him. Nhan Dan describes his supposed criminal history:

"Nguyen Van Ly, born on May 15, 1946 in Vinh Chap commune, Vinh Linh district of Quang Tri province, was appointed priest in 1974. After the liberation of the south, Nguyen Van Ly had carried out many activities against the country. In September 1977, he was arrested for illegally distributing documents against the administration. On December 9, 1983, he was sentenced for 10 years in prison by the People's Court of Binh Tri Thien province regarding his crime in attempting to destroy the people's unity bloc and security. In 1995, the People's Committee of Thua Thien-Hue decided to impose compulsory residence against him. On February 22, 2001, Thua Thien Hue authorities issued the administrative probation, however he disobeyed this and incited parishioners to act against the administration. On May 17, 2001, the police of Thua Thien-Hue arrested him and on May 19, 2001, he was sentenced 15 years in jail failing to comply with an administrative decision by authorised State agencies and for sabotaging the policy of uniting the whole people. On February 1, 2005, he was granted amnesty and was kept under surveillance at No. 69 Phan Dinh Phung street, Hue city."

The documents that Fr. Ly distributed in 1977 were statements of the archbishop of Hue at the time, Fr. Nguyen Kim Dien, who was one of the first religious leaders to publicly dissent from the regime's policies, at a time when the society was extremely closed, both within and toward the outside world.

Nhan Dan goes on to say that Fr. Ly showed no repentance after his release, moving from his residence several times without seeking official approval (indicating he was under a form of house arrest), and then "establishing contacts and colluding with political opportunists and reactionaries at home and abroad in order to issue the so-called 'declaration on calling for the right to form parties in Vietnam. and then the 'declaration on freedom and democracy for Vietnam in 2006' which sought signatures to support the attempt of overturn the administration."

Police raided his residence on Feb. 18, and confiscated "six computers, six printers, dozens of telephones connecting with the Internet, 136 mobile phone SIM cards and more than 200kg of documents relating to the establishment of reactionary organisations opposing the Communist Party and the State of Vietnam."

According to a press release today by Reporters Without Borders, Fr. Ly was editing a dissident magazine, Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech), at the time of his arrest. Two other editors of the magazine, long time dissident Father Chan Tin and Father Phan Van Loi, have been put under house arrest. The English language version of the manifesto referred to by Nhan Dan can be found here in audio format or read here.