By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– There was international condemnation Thursday, July 27, about Vietnam’s decision to detain a frail dissident priest and leading human rights activist despite him suffering from a brain tumor.
Vietnamese officials confirmed Wednesday, July 27, that 65-year old
was sent back to because his medical leave of more than a year had come to an end.
He was taken from his home town of Hue city to Ba Sao prison outside the northern capital of Hanoi, officials said.
In Washington the United States State Department expressed concern about his situation, saying the government should release him immediately. Heide Bronke Fulton, State Department acting deputy spokeswoman, said “No individual should be imprisoned for expressing the right to free speech.”
Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International strongly condemned Ly’s imprisonment and demanded his release. “Throwing Father Ly back in prison only compounds the cruelty and injustice of his original sentence,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Father Ly was convicted solely for expressing peaceful political beliefs and should never have been imprisoned in the first place.”
WALKING ON CRUTCHES
Ly, who uses crutches to help him walk, was in “normal health condition” after making the 300-mile (500-kilometer) trip from Hue to the prison, according to prison officials.He has been in and out of prison and house arrest for years, most recently for helping found a group called Bloc 8406, which promotes multiparty democracy.
In 2007, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for spreading “anti-government propaganda” during a trial in which police muzzled him for shouting anti-communist slogans and accusing Vietnamese authorities of practicing “the law of the jungle.”
Vietnamese officials said Ly continued to oppose the communist regime by distributing anti-government leaflets and accusing Vietnamese leaders of being too soft on China in the countries’ ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
During the dramatic trial, an officer clamped his hand over Ly’s mouth to stop him from shouting anti-communist slogans and accusing Vietnamese authorities of practicing “the law of the jungle.”
VIETNAM PRESSURE CHRISTIANS
Rights groups say Vietnam also has increased pressure on other Christians, including Degar-Montagnards in the Central Highlands, amid reports of detentions, torture and killings in that region by security forces.
The Degar-Montagnards were close allies of United States troops during the Vietnam War. More recently, the Vietnamese communist government has expressed concerns over the spread of house churches and other Christian groups operating outside the state-run denominations.
Vietnam has denied human rights abuses and have accused rights groups of spreading “Western propaganda”.
The pressure on Ly, who is known as a major rights advocate, has also been linked to a wider crackdown on perceived dissent by the Communist authorities.
Several members of the United States Congress have repeatedly called for Ly’s release, including a letter signed by 37 senators appealing directly to
Vietnam’s president two years ago. Earlier this year, the U.S. strongly protested the treatment of an American diplomat who was roughed up by police while trying to visit Ly in Hue, the Associated Press news agency reported.