by Stefan Bos, Worthy News International Bureau Chief
They spoke out around the third anniversary of the one-day trial of Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton and prominent activists Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi, and Truong Minh Duc.
The four stood trial on April 5, 2018, on charges of ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the government under Article 79 of the Vietnamese penal code.
They were sentenced to between seven and 12 years in prison, trial observers said. Pro-democracy activist Nguyen Van Dai and his assistant Le Thu Ha were also tried and convicted on the same charge. But they were released into exile on June 7, 2018, but the other four remain in prison.
Among those serving the longest sentence is Ton, who, as pastor and rights defender, publicly condemned social injustices, explained the rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). “He is serving a 12-year sentence,” the group said.
Before his imprisonment, the pastor already suffered attacks in Vietnam, a Communist-run nation, according to his Christian supporters. “Local authorities and police repeatedly and violently attacked pastor Ton, his family, and members of his church,” CSW stressed.
Fellow inmate and Hoa Hao Buddhist Nguyen Bac Truyen is a legal expert who reportedly gave free legal assistance to political prisoners’ families and persecuted religious groups.
He also supported victims of land grabs, CSW said. “He was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Last year Truyen was awarded the Stefanus Prize for his work promoting human rights in Vietnam,” including freedom of religion or belief, said CSW.
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan human rights commission based in the US, demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Bac Truyen.
Earlier, U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren), a member of the Commission, said she would advocate for Truyen through the Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project. The project cooperates with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and rights group Amnesty International USA.
Human rights and pro-democracy activist Pham Van Troi and citizen journalist Truong Minh Duc were also sentenced. They got seven and 12 years’ prison terms, respectively, during the same one-day trial.
In 2019 Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh, Duc’s wife, and other family members and supporters of prisoners of conscience, including children, were reportedly attacked. They were beaten while on their way to visit the four in prison. Advocacy groups say the assailants included police, plainclothes agents, and thugs.
CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas said told Worthy News that his group joined other activists
to again call “for the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyen Trung Ton, Nguyen Bac Truyen, Pham Van Troi, and Truong Minh Duc.
He noted that over “many years, Nguyen Trung Ton and Nguyen Bac Truyen had been harassed, threatened and imprisoned. Simply for supporting and defending some of the most vulnerable people in Vietnam, including religious and ethnic minorities.”
He said CSW condemned “the intimidation and harassment of their family members.” We “call for the release of all those detained in Vietnam in connection with the peaceful defense of human rights and freedoms,” Thomas added.
Vietnam, a one-party Communist state, has one of south-east Asia’s fastest-growing economies amid reforms. But critics say reforms were limited to economic progress while devoted Christians and others saw as a threat to Communist rule are attacked and jailed.
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