Dissident Vietnam priest proclaims innocence in UN letter

12 June 2010

HANOI — A dissident Catholic priest jailed four times by communist Vietnam has proclaimed his innocence and accused the country of breaching its international treaty obligations to safeguard human rights.

Ly was convicted on charges of propaganda against the state and sentenced in 2007 to eight years jail

Nguyen Van Ly, who said in March that he had been temporarily released from prison to undergo treatment for a brain tumour, made his demands in a letter to the United Nations and unnamed international rights organisations.

He sent a copy of the document, dated June 8, to AFP on Saturday.

Ly was convicted on charges of propaganda against the state and sentenced in 2007 to eight years’ incarceration, a verdict that drew condemnation from diplomats and human rights groups.

The European Parliament labelled him a prisoner of conscience, and his release had been sought by US lawmakers.

In the letter, Ly said he had spent a total of 17 years in prison during four stints since 1977.

“I have always been innocent, as I only did what I have been allowed by international law and which the Vietnamese communist authorities have to follow if they still want to be a member of the United Nations,” he wrote.

By arresting and convicting him, and seizing his assets, the regime had “seriously violated international treaties” to which it belongs, he alleged.

Vietnam is a party to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ly asked the government to return seized Bibles, vestments, computers, nearly 200 books, and articles on justice, democracy and human rights.

He also sought more than 500,000 dollars in compensation for medical disorders which he said led to his partial paralysis while in prison, and called on the government to halt “all acts of repression, detention and imprisonment” of those fighting for justice, freedom and democracy.

At his last trial, prosecutors said Ly was a founding member of the banned “Bloc 8406″ pro-democracy coalition.

The government says its policy is to respect and protect human rights.

Source:  AFP

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