A Vietnamese priest is under house arrest after police accused him of spreading propaganda to undermine the communist government, local media said on Monday. Police first raided Fr Nguyen Van Ly's home in Hue City on 18 February. They returned on 24 February and moved him to a rural parish in Phong Dien where he is now under house arrest. Government officials say Fr Ly was plotting with overseas democracy activists to start a new political party. Vietnam's communist party does not allow challenges to its single-party rule. Police have not formally charged Ly and are continuing to investigate. Fr Ly angered Vietnamese authorities in 2001 when he gave written testimony to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom urging the United States not to ratify a trade agreement until the Communist government improved its human rights record. Fr Ly has spent more than a decade in prison for his political activism and is one of the best known members of Vietnam's small dissident community. Vietnam has about six million Catholics, out of a population of 84million. Officially the government has not allowed churches to operate freely, although in recent years the situation has relaxed. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the Pope last month and the Vatican and Viet Nam are discussing the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties.
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