Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the news that police in the central city of Hue have accused detained Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly of “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” under article 88 of the criminal code.
The decision to formally open an investigation against Ly, taken on 24 February and reported yesterday by the official news agency, followed the confiscation of computer material and publications from his home in Hue.
Ly, who faces the possibility of a long prison term, has been removed to a remote parish and placed under house arrest, according to a dissident group based abroad. The editor of the independent magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech), Ly is alleged to have been in contact with “opportunists” and “reactionaries” who planned to launch a dissident political organisation.
Priest placed under house arrest
After receiving confirmation that Father Nguyen Van Ly has been placed under house arrest in Hue, Reporters Without Borders called on the Vietnamese authorities to rescind this measure, which deprives him of all his freedom. Last released under an amnesty in February 2005, Ly risks being kept under house arrest until 2010.
Reporters Without Borders called today for the release of Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest and one of the editors of the underground magazine Tu do Ngôn luan (Free Speech), who was arrested on 19 February during an "administrative check" at the archdiocesan building where he lives in the city of Hue (Center). Two others editors of Tu do Ngôn luan, Father Chan Tin and Father Phan Van Loi, were also put under house arrest.
"Father Nguyen Van Ly has already been the victim of detention without due process in the past," Reporters Without Borders said. "Any recurrence of such abuses would be unacceptable, especially as no information has been provided about the reason for his arrest. Defending freedom of expression is no justification for such practices."
Ly was arrested on the evening of 19 February, the Lunar New Year day in Asia, after several police cars pulled up outside the archdiocesan Nha Chung building where he lives. Around 60 police officers led by a colonel who specialises in religious matters cut phone lines and searched the entire building, breaking open a cupboard which Ly refused to unlock. They took away six computers and mobile phones and many documents.
Ly is a member of the pro-democracy movement called "Bloc 8406". He spent several years in prison in 1977 and 1978 and from 1983 to 1992 as a result of his activism in support of freedom of expression and worship. He was sentenced again in October 2001 to 15 years in prison for activities linked to the defence of free speech. The sentence was commuted several times and be finally left prison in February 2004.
His nephew, the cyber-dissident Nguyen Vu Viet, was charged in June 2001 with "using email, fax and telephone to disseminate abroad information about religious freedom in Vietnam." He and two colleagues were given sentences ranging from three to five years in prison. Their sentences were subsequently commuted and he was released on 18 February 2004.