Rep. Smith Calls Vietnam’s Sentence of Political Activist “Outrageous and Appalling”

Calls for passage of House resolution demanding an immediate release of Father Ly and an end to human rights abuses in Vietnam

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) today called Vietnam’s sentence of Catholic priest and pro-democracy activist Father Nguyen Van Ly “outrageous and appalling,” and called for the U.S. to immediately intervene to secure his freedom.    

“The conviction of Father Ly for merely exercising his fundamental human rights is outrageous and appalling, but it also is regrettably predictable. Vietnam claims that they have put an end to human rights abuses, but now the whole world can see that their reforms were just for show,” Smith said.  “Vietnam’s so-called reforms are nothing more than smoke and mirrors.  The sham trial that lead to the conviction of Father Ly and other dissidents today is further evidence that the regime in Hanoi continues to carry-out human rights abuses with impunity.”       


Smith added, “The U.S. government must be clear in telling Vietnam that such persecution is unacceptable and they must immediately release Father Ly, as well as any other political prisoners and prisoners of conscious.”


Just two weeks ago, on March 14th, Smith introduced a House resolution calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to immediately and unconditionally release several political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have been arrested in a recent wave of government oppression, including Father Ly.  The resolution also calls for the Government of Vietnam to comply with internationally recognized standards for basic freedoms and human rights.


“We must take a stand against the bullies in Hanoi,” Smith said  


Last month, the parish house of Father Ly—a former prisoner of conscience who spent over 13 years in prison—was raided. Father Ly was moved to a remote location and placed under house arrest.  Father Ly was one of the founders of “Block 8406”—a democracy movement which started last April—and his arrest coincided with the establishment of a new political party he started, the Vietnam Progression Party.


Today, he was sentenced to 8 years in prison for distributing “anti-government” materials.


“I have been to Vietnam and met with Father Ly and over 60 other dissidents.  All Father Ly wants is a better future for his country.  His arrest and conviction are purely political, a shameful attempt to silence him and intimidate anyone else who dares to speak out against the government,” said Smith.


Father Ly was among a number of dissidents swept up in a recent crackdown in Vietnam.  Earlier this month, Vietnamese police arrested another member of “Block 8406” and the principal spokesperson for the Vietnam Progression Party, Le Thi Cong Nhan.  On the same day—March 6, 2007—Vietnamese police arrested one of Vietnam’s few practicing human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van Dai.


“Father Ly’s conviction in a kangaroo court is the first in the recent wave of politically-motivated arrests.  The Vietnamese government audaciously resumed its past oppression of human rights after Congress agreed to grant Vietnam membership in the World Trade Organization last December.  The U.S. must intervene to free Father Ly and prevent the Vietnamese government from continuing to persecute individuals for expressing their basic human rights.”


Smith added, “The regime in Hanoi needs to stop playing games and start respecting the basic human rights of their people.”

For Immediate Release: March 30, 2007
Contact:  Patrick Creamer (202) 225-3765



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