HANOI, Vietnam, SEPT. 2, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Vietnamese authorities arrested 15 Catholic youths in July and August, six of whom are being held in Hanoi, while the whereabouts of the other nine is unknown. 

Their families launched an appeal for solidarity in an open letter in which they ask for the active support and prayer of the whole Church, the Eglises d'Asie agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris reported Thursday.

The families say their children are innocent of any crime, and that they should not be punished for involvement in social activities that promote the common good. 

Among those arrested is Paul Tran Minh Nhat, a student of the faculty of Foreign Languages and Information Technology of Hanoi. He belongs to a Catholic parish of the Dioceses of Vinh, in the province of Nghe An.

He finished his studies Aug. 27. At the end of his last test, when he was leaving the classroom, four security agents in uniform accompanied him to the door of the university and forced him to get into a waiting car. He was taken to his room, which the police searched in his presence, and then to an unknown destiny.

Since that date, the family has not received a notification of his arrest.


While the police were arresting the student, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang was announcing the release of 10,000 detainees on the occasion of today's national feast day.

Bishop Paul Nguyên Thai Hop of Vinh, the diocese where the majority of Catholics have been arrested recently, told the Fides agency that "the amnesty is a practice that is repeated every year and often applies to prisoners sentenced for crimes against security and not prisoners of conscience."

According to the Human Rights Commission in Vietnam, at least 258 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are in Vietnamese prisons.

The U.S. State Department's 2010 report on religious freedom noted the "significant problems" in Vietnam with regard to this human right.