By Claudia Vandermade, Southeast Asia Cogroup Chair.
Father Nguyen Van Ly, a 64-year-old Catholic priest in central Viet Nam, has spent some 17 years in prison – amid harsh conditions and often in solitary confinement – for calling on Vietnamese authorities to respect freedom of expression and other human rights. Now he’s back behind bars.
On July 25, the ailing Father Ly was returned to prison by ambulance. Authorities claim that he distributed documents critical of government policies and incited demonstrations. Father Ly is one of dozens of activists serving long jail terms for their peaceful criticism of the Vietnamese authorities.
In March 2010, Father Ly had been granted a 12-month “temporary suspension” of his sentence so that he could receive medical treatment for complications from a stroke and brain tumor. He suffered the stroke in prison in November 2009 and has been left partially paralyzed. He was not properly diagnosed nor given adequate medical care for his serious medical condition. Since March, Father Ly had been living under surveillance at a house for retired priests.
Peaceful dissent and the promotion of democracy are criminalized in Viet Nam. Authorities routinely harass and imprison peaceful activists in order to silence them. Father Ly will not be silenced. We will not be silenced. Urge the Vietnamese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Father Ly and all prisoners of conscience. (Link leads to PDF download.)