A Catholic priest has denounced a film screened on national television in which five pro-democracy activists were shown saying that they had been trying to overthrow the Vietnamese state. 700 state newspapers and other media outlets simultaneously reported the event the next day.
Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Le Cong Dinh, Le Thang Long, Nguyen Tien Trung and Tran Anh Kim were shown bending their heads, admitting their sins against the Vietnamese State, and appealing for lenient treatment.
Fr Peter Phan Van Loi of Hue Archdiocese told Radio Free Asia that such political confessions were "almost always obtained under duress".
He said he believed the prisoners had been beaten. “A defendant can only plead guilty or not guilty during a court upholding a fair and legitimate proceeding,” he concluded.
Fr Peter Phan himself is at possible risk of arrest for suspected links to a group including veteran democracy activists. He and some others “were identified in the police report and indictment for follow-up investigation,” Human Rights Watch stated in a report on 19 August.
Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations have demanded thegovernment to immediate release of the democracy activists. At least 24 dissidents have been jailed since July, according to state media.