By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– Two Vietnamese Catholics, whose arrest sparked mass protests in Vietnam’s Nghe An Province last month, have been sentenced to six and seven months imprisonment, trial observers told BosNewsLife Thursday, October 31.
Family members were not allowed to attend the three-hour closed-door trial and sentencing of Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Khoi, who were detained June 27 on charges of “disturbing public order”.
“The fact that the two men were tried in a closed-door trial is of particular concern,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Their detention came after men believed to be plainclothes police officers on May 22 stopped and searched Catholics visiting a shrine and attending Mass at a church in Nghi Phuong Commune, Christians said.
“As the police officers did not show any identification, there was confusion among the crowd as to their identity, and some people reportedly believed them to be robbers,” added CSW, which has investigated the case.
It was unclear why Nguyen Van Hai and Ngo Van Khoi were singled out for arrest. “Some sources say they were arguing with the plainclothes officers; others say they were simply being used as scapegoats for the unrest,” CSW said in a statement.
Members of the Catholic community and Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, the Bishop of Vinh city petitioned for their release.
In response, the local district chief reportedly issued a paper promising that the two men would be freed on September 4. When this promise was not upheld, several hundred petitioners surrounded the District Office in Nghe An Province last month.
The military arrived to dispel the crowd, armed with guns, batons, tear gas, and guard dogs, according to witnesses.
U.S.-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA) network said an “unknown number of people” were rushed to hospital with injuries after being beaten by police who also fired in the air in front of the My Yen church in Nghe An province. Christians said at least 40 people were injured.
Following what critics called the “worst crackdown in years” Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop appealed for “international support and solidarity”.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas agreed that, “These sentences come as a huge disappointment to the Catholic community in Nghe An…”
He told BosNewsLife that Vietnamese Catholics’ right to freedom of religion or belief “has been severely restricted and the community has been subject to constant intimidation and harassment,” in the Communist-run Asian nation.
“CSW calls on the Vietnamese government to release the two men, to halt all attacks on religious minorities in Vietnam and lift restrictions on their religious freedom.”
Vietnamese authorities have denied wrongdoing in the past or blamed Western propaganda for the reported rights violations.
This article has several distorted facts that must be corrected:
. The tittle ” Vietnam jails Catholic protesters ” is misleading in 2 areas: 1) These 2 men are not jailed because they’re Catholics. 2) These 2 men are not jailed because they’re protesters. So, the only correct fact in your title is the name of the country: Vietnam.
. The closed-door trial was necessitated because these 2 men, their families and several of their village members already twice attacked the police station and held officials hostage.
. The incident that caused these 2 men to be arrested and charged was not as described by Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide as ” police officers did not show any identification, there was confusion among the crowd as to their identity, and some people reportedly believed them to be robbers “. There were no confusion and no robbers… they beat up the police and thus, arrested for being the leaders of the crowd.
. ” Members of the Catholic community and Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, the Bishop of Vinh city petitioned for their release.” No. They did not just petition for the releases. Over 2 hundred people took over the admin. center, tied up some 8 officials for hours until the local district chief signed a paper promising the releases which he had no authority to do, only the provincial chief could.
. Why this community of 2,000 acts aggressively and lawlessly? Because Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop receives support from overseas anti-communist Vietnamese and had become a rogue/ protester priest. He uses his parishioners to accomplish his political goals. Of the 14 million Catholics in Vietnam, this village and this priest are rare.
. For your info. : Vietnam is the 2nd largest Catholic nation in Asia and the fastest growing Catholic population in Asia, faster than the Philippines.
. Vietnam does have problems with religious freedom and civil rights in general. There are many stories of government/church conflict that deserve attention and support. You don’t need distortions, a professional protester priest and a rebel village to make a point.