By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Chief International Correspondent
HANOI, VIETNAM (Worthy News)-- A Vietnamese Catholic priest known for publicly expressing views on democracy and human rights faced a difficult month Tuesday, March 1, as he was due to be imprisoned again on charges of spreading "propaganda" against the state", despite international concerns over his health.
Nguyen Van Ly, 64, suffered a stroke in prison in November 2009, which left him partially paralyzed, after being held in solitary confinement, Christians and rights activists said.
He was granted a 12 month “temporary suspension” of his eight year jail sentence on March 15 last year, to allow medical treatment, after also being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
"Since his release, he has been living under surveillance at a house for retired priests in the diocese of the Archbishop of Hue", central Vietnam, said rights group Amnesty International.
Án American diplomat was reportedly mishandled by Vietnamese police when he attempted to visit Ly, who was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in 2007 for spreading "propaganda" against Communist-run Vietnam.
One of Vietnam's most prominent pro-democracy dissidents was briefly detained while protesting the January incident in an opinion piece in The Washington Post newspaper.
"If Washington is looking to Vietnam for a long-term partner for peace and regional stability, America would do well to recognize publicly that only a Vietnam that is free and democratic can provide one," wrote Nguyen Dan Que in the piece published Saturday, February 28.
Washington claims however it has raised the crackdown on pro-democracy activists with Vietnamese authorities.
Last week Que also posted an appeal on the Internet calling for the masses to follow the example of protesters in North Africa and the Middle East and launch an uprising to make a "clean sweep of Communist dictatorship and build a new, free, democratic, humane and progressive Vietnam."
Que called on young people to use the Internet and mobile phones to spread the word for millions to take to the streets and demand an end to Vietnam's one-party rule.
HELD BY POLICE
State-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Monday, February 28, that the 69-year-old Que was being held by police in Ho Chi Minh City for allegedly acting to overthrow the government.
It said his house was searched Saturday and police found 60,000 documents on his computer calling for a revolution. Vietnamese police declined to comment.
He was later released on bail news reports said, but it was not immediately clear when he would face a trial. Rights groups have suggested that people protesting against the tightly controlled state can face years of imprisonment.
Catholic Priest Nguyen Van Ly spent some 17 years of his life in prisons, since he first demanded more religious rights in the 1970s. Christians comprise some 10 percent of Vietnam's population.
Although Vietnam's constitution grants freedom of worship, Christians have complained that registration is required for all religious organizations and churches that do register are tightly controlled by the government.
Several churches have reportedly been destroyed by Communist activists since a new government-crackdown on unregistered worship and church properties began in 2008. Among religious minorities reportedly facing persecution are Degar-Montagnard Christians in Central Vietnam.
"Those who do not register face the possibility of imprisonment, torture, and death. Churches and other buildings used by Christians are frequently dismantled by authorities in Vietnam," said Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), one of several advocacy groups investigating reported violations of religious freedom.
Vietnam's government has in the past denied wrongdoing and described reports of a crackdown on Degar-Montagnard Christians as Western propaganda.