By BosNewsLife News Center
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- Vietnamese security forces detained several key pro-democracy activists early Sunday, February 4, and there were fresh reports that Degar-Montagnard Christians were tortured, dissidents told BosNewsLife.
"We would like to inform you that at around 1:00 AM, February 4, Vietnam authorities arrested [lawyers] Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai as well as Engineer Bach Ngoc Duong and several other democratic activists" at an attorney's office in Hanoi, the capital," said leaders of the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam.
In a letter to the US Embassy in Hanoi obtained by BosNewsLife, the group said it was seeking urgent "humanitarian intervention to help free them" as soon as possible. "Your kind protection is always highly appreciated," the group said in the emergency message to the Embassy. US and Vietnamese officials were not immediately available for comment.
The arrests came shortly after reports that Vietnamese security forced allegedly tortured two members of the predominantly Christian Degar-Montagnards in the country's Central Highlands.
One of the victims was described as 21-year-old Yum from the village of Ploi Broc Hle in the province of Gia Lai. On January 24 he was summoned to visit the local station of Vietnam's Security Police where he was allegedly beaten on charges of having tried to flee to neighboring Cambodia and fighting with rebels.
Yum reportedly denied the charges, saying he would not have gone to the police station if he had something to hide. One police officer responded by attacking "Yum on his neck, chin, mouth and ears," said the Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI) in a statement to BosNewsLife.
"The Security police was using forms of martial arts such as Karate and Kung Fu. It seemed as if he was practicing his strikes on a restrained Yum. As blood flowed down from Yumâ€™s mouth, nose and ears, Yum fell down on the floor unconscious," said MFI, which has close contacts in the Central Highlands. "At noon they let Yum go back home, but by the time he arrived, his face, eyes and lips were all bruised and swollen and he couldnâ€™t eat. As of now, he is still suffering from those severely beatings," the group added.
Grun, who is from the same village, was named as another victim. He was also taken to the local Security Police station on January 24 where officers allegedly "were using martial arts to beat him mercilessly." Although Grun "did not talk back to them, they still beat him up severely." At noon Grun too was allowed to leave "but his face and eyes were all bruised up and swollen and he could barely walk," MFI claimed. He is reportedly unable to work and is recovering from what MFI described as "severe" injuries at home.
At least 350 other predominantly Christian Degar-Montagnards are believed to be in several prisons of Vietnam. Human rights groups have linked the violence against them to support the minority gave to US forces during the Vietnam War and fears among Communist authorities about the spread of Christianity.
The Vietnamese authorities have denied human rights abuses. They point out that last week Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. The meeting was aimed at kicking off the process of establishing official diplomatic relations between the Communist country and the Vatican.
However MFI and other groups believe that Vietnam's government still tries to control religion by cracking down on independent churches and those who refuse to worship in government-backed denominations. (With reports from Vietnam and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
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