2014-10-03 16:37:00

Vietnam frees Catholic activist after three years in prison

The Vietnamese government has released a young Catholic activist after more than three years in prison where he risked death from repeated beatings, humiliation and abuse at the hands of prison guards.   The guards even confiscated the Bible of 26 year old Antonie Dau Van Duong in an attempt to undermine his faith.  He was part of a group of four Christians, charged and convicted in May 2012 for "propaganda against the state" following the distribution of pro-democracy leaflets. The four were punished according to Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, a provision which - according to human rights organizations - is often used to arrest bloggers, advocates and critics of the communist leadership and the state.  When the judges sentenced him to three years and six months in prison, human rights groups and international organizations called the trial a shameful farce, saying he had been convicted "without even a shred of evidence."  However, the authorities ordered his release and 18 additional months of probation.

Interviewed by Radio Free Asia (RFA) shortly after returning home to Nam Dan, Nghe An province, Duong said he was lucky to be alive after having suffered terrible violence in the Nghi Kim detention center.   The guards, he said, "allowed other inmates to beat me, two did from 10 pm to 4 am." I thank God, he adds, "that I'm still standing here today. I might have died at that time. My body hurt terribly, but I kept praying and recovered."   Later, Duong was transferred to Prison No. 5 in neighboring Thanh Hoa province, where he served the remainder of his jail term. Duong said he was placed in a cell along with "drug dealers, robbers and murderers", although for short periods he spent time with other political prisoners. The prison guards seized his Bible, which was returned to him only after a prolonged hunger strike. 

With over 6 million faithful, the Catholic Church is the second largest religion in the country, after Buddhism. The community has been at loggerheads with Hanoi, in most cases over issues related to land ownership or ecclesiastical goods that the government wants to seize.   (Source: AsiaNews)

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