Lord Alton, US Senators call for release of Vietnamese priest

Fr Ly being gagged in court that sent him back to prison.

Fr Ly being gagged in court that sent him back to prison.

There have been calls from both sides of the Atlantic for the release of a Vietnamese Catholic priest and human rights advocate who was given an eight year prison sentence in March 2007 for practicing  his faith.

Yesterday, 37 members of the US Senate, led by Sens Barbara Boxer and Sam Brownback sent a letter to Vietnamese President Nguyễn Minh Triết   appealing for the release of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly.

Fr Ly is a 63-year-old  priest and a prominent advocate for religious freedom, democracy, and human rights in Vietnam, for which he has suffered repeated harassment and imprisonment. In a four-hour trial on March 30, 2007, he was accused and convicted of disseminating anti-government propaganda and sentenced to eight years in prison and five years house arrest.

During the trial, Father Ly was physically restrained, gagged, and prohibited from putting forth a defense.

Jared Genser from campaigning group Freedom Now, said: “Father Ly is an inspirational symbol among Vietnamese activists and human rights defenders everywhere. We are strongly encouraged by these Senators’ efforts. It is our hope that the Government of Vietnam will heed their call and bring to an end the continued and unjust imprisonment of Father Ly.”

In a statement yesterday,  Lord David Alton said he welcomed the decision of the  Senators to write to Vietnamese President. Fr Ly was released from an earlier period in prison after Lord Alton and Congressman Joseph Pitts travelled together to Hanoi and pleaded his case.

Lord Alton said that the efforts of Freedom Now could be supported by writing to the Vietnamese Ambassador in London: 12 Victoria Rd12 Victoria Rd, London, W8 5RD

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