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Vietnamese freedom fighter priest arrested again

Fr Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest who last year campaigned for religious freedom in Vietnam, was arrested early on Thursday morning in his parish church in Hue.

Fr Van Ly was preparing to say mass this morning when, according to EDA Eglise d'Asie news agency, 600 security agents surrounded and broke into the church. Some of the faithful, already gathered for mass, who tried to defend the priest were beaten and threatened and Fr Van Ly was taken away in a police van.

The news was confirmed in a statement by Dang Cong Dieu, chairman of the People's Committee in Phy An village where the church is located.

In February Fr Van Ly urged the United States to delay ratification of a bi-lateral trade agreement because of serious violation of human rights, religious freedom in particular, in Vietnam. Following this, the provincial government placed him under administrative detention and barred him from leaving his commune.

Later the government also banned him from religious activity. But the priest, the chairman of the Peoples' Committee continued, "defied the order and continued to slander the Party and government policies of religious freedom."

EDA reports that the vicar general of Hue archdiocese said government officials had pressured the Archbishop to remove the priest from his religious duties, but the Archbishop declined to do so. In March, the Vietnamese military daily newspaper Quan Doi Nhan labeled the priest a "traitor of the fatherland". In his fight for religious freedom for his people, Fr Van ly has spent 10 years in prison between 1970 and 1990 and since his release in 1992 he is kept under strict police surveillance.