Vietnamese Priest Gets 15-Year Prison Term

HANOI, Vietnam, OCT. 19, 2001 ( Vietnam sentenced a dissident Catholic priest to 15 years in prison on charges he undermined the country´s unity and violated a detention order, the Associated Press reported.

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Vietnam´s Communist government earlier rejected a U.S. request for the release of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, saying his arrest was purely a Vietnamese internal affair.

Father Ly had urged in testimony to a U.S. government committee in February that the U.S. Congress delay ratification of a bilateral trade agreement until Vietnam eases restrictions on religion.

Father Ly was placed under administrative detention, the equivalent of house arrest, after his testimony to the U.S. committee. In March, the government also banned him from running his church.

At a one-day trial in central Hue city, the state-owned VTV network showed a gaunt Father Ly listening to the verdict with his eyes closed. Two police then led him out of the courtroom.

Father Ly´s sentencing is the latest in a series of tough actions by Vietnam´s government against members of non-approved religious groups.

In September, Ho Tan Anh, a 61-year-old farmer and a leader of the Buddhist Youth Movement in central Vietnam, burned himself to death to protest restrictions on his group.

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