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Thursday, July 2, 2009


Jul. 1, 2009 ( -

Reports in Vietnam's state-controlled media claim that government authorities now have enough evidence to arrest a Redemptorist priest on charges of counter-revolutionary activity and damaging national unity.

On Tuesday, June 30, the People's Public Security Newspaper and other state-run media outlet reported that Father Joseph Le Quang Uy had “bent his head, admitting that he had committed crimes against people and the government.” The newspaper, run by the Vietnamese police force, went on to state that the day before “at the headquarters of the customs at Tan Son Nhat airport, Mr. Le Quang Uy signed a statement admitting that had committed offenses against the law.”

According to the paper, Father Joseph Le had violated the law restricting publishing in Vietnam. Customs officials at Tan Son Nhat airport reportedly discovered in his laptop computer documents and emails with “bad contents” that could damage national unity and the development of the country, distort Vietnamese history, and undermine the policies of the government.

Since February, the state-owned media have repeatedly accused Father Joseph Le of “conducting propaganda against the state” and “plotting to overthrow the communist regime,” calling for "immediate and severe punishment." Under Article 88 of the Penal Code, if convicte he faces a 3- to 20-year prison sentence. There is a possibility that he might face the death penalty.

Father Joseph Le Quang Uy, a pro-life hero and an outspoken critic of recent bauxite-extraction mining in the Central Highlands region, was detained at Tan Son Nhat airport on Saturday June, 6 as he was returning home from a pastoral trip abroad. His luggage had been searched meticulously and his laptop was confiscated by the airport security and customs agents. The priest was later released with a citation that required him to come to the Office of Cultural Inspection for follow-up meetings.

Responding to the charges, Fathere Joseph Le denied all accusations against him, stating that police had altered and distorted the statement he signed on June 29 at Tan Son Nhat airport. According to his own account, most of the documents on his laptop were drafts of his sermons. A few were articles reflecting his opposition to bauxite extraction in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. However, he points out that since these were merely drafts of statements, kept on his own laptop, they could not fall under the provisions of the law governing published material.

The Vietnamese authorities have recently arrested at least 30 dissidents, including a number of prominent lawyers, in a crackdown that raises concerns about a stifling of freedom of expression and freedom of association.

There is growing concern, too, over reports of an imminent crackdown against the Redemptorist priests in Vietnam, who have repeatedly called for the restoration of Church properties confiscated by the government, and petitioned for a halt to the mining of bauxite in the central high plains-- an initiative which they fear would cause irreversible damage to the environment and to the local residents, many of them members of ethnic minority groups.

[By J.B. An Dang]

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