Vatican officials said they will likely try to ask for clemency for a Vietnamese priest who was sentenced to eight-years in prison for crimes against the state.
The Vatican has encouraged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly was given a fair trial and the right to receive spiritual assistance from his bishop, Vatican sources said.
The sources said that although they cannot interfere in Vietnamese internal politics they will ask for the full details of Father Ly’s case.
In late February, Father Ly was placed under house arrest and charged with acts of incitement against the state after his home was raided. Father Ly also was accused of being a part of a pro-democracy activist group.
The priest’s trial lasted only one day, he was sentenced March 30.
The Rome-based AsiaNews agency reported that in an unusually open gesture journalists were allowed to follow parts of the trial via closed-circuit television.
Father Ly refused to stand before the court and at one point yelled “Down with the Vietnamese Communist Party,” after which the video feed was cut off, reported AsiaNews.
Since the 1970s Father Ly has spent about 15 years in prison for speaking out against various policies of the Vietnamese government.
Some of his activities in the past have been directed specifically at the struggle for religious freedom, but his most recent activities have been directed at the struggle for political freedom, Vatican sources said.
UCA News, an Asian church news agency, reported April 4 that Vietnamese Catholics were concerned over the priest’s most recent imprisonment.
“I love and respect Father Ly so much, but I am not pleased with his activities against the government,” said a Catholic nurse at a state-run hospital in Hue who refused to give a name. The nurse said the Father Ly “sacrifices himself bravely for religious freedom” and for Vietnamese who want to see more freedom in their country through a multiparty political system.
“I appreciate him, but I think his group can never change single-party rule in Vietnam,” the nurse said.
A senior priest from the HCM City Archdiocese told UCA News April 2 that Father Ly’s sentence “is too heavy.” He said he feared Father Ly’s recurrent imprisonment “will affect his mind.”
The priest said he was told Father Ly has not been mentally alert lately. Father Ly “really criticises the government strongly, but he does not have the real ability for politics,” he said.
He pointed out that freedom in Vietnam works “within a legal framework” and anyone who has views against the government will be watched. “It is not very wise to express anticommunist views,” he added.