Vietnam Releases Priest From Prison

Father Van Ly Among 8,000 Freed

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HANOI, Vietnam, FEB. 2, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Vietnamese government released a Catholic priest from prison in the wake of efforts by human rights activists, a news agency reported.

Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, 59, has been accused of threatening national security and sentenced originally to 15 years in prison and five under house arrest. He was released Tuesday from the Bao Bao prison, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Hanoi.

The Missionary Service News Agency said that the priest’s cause was helped by the mobilization of rights activists.

In 2001, Father Van Ly sent a letter to the U.S. Congress calling for a delay in the ratification of bilateral trade agreements between the United States and Vietnam, mentioning the religious persecutions and human rights violations committed by Hanoi.

The priest was arrested and sentenced in October of that same year. The sentence was reduced to 10 years in 2003. Last June, a local court ordered the sentence reduced to five years in prison, but kept the five years of house arrest.

After his release, Father Van Ly was accompanied by a police car to his native city, in the province of Thue Thien-Hue. It is unclear if he will have to remain under house arrest.

For the occasion of the lunar New Year, Feb. 9, the government annually grants amnesty to selected prisoners.

The authorities announced the release of more than 8,000 prisoners, including politicians and six inmates «of conscience,» one of whom is Father Van Ly. Some 30 foreigners are among those being released.

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