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Vietnam sentences Catholic priest


Vietnam sentenced a dissident Catholic priest on Friday to 15 years in prison on charges he undermined the country's unity and violated a detention order.

Vietnam's Communist government earlier rejected a US request for the release of the priest, Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, saying his arrest was purely a Vietnamese internal affair.

Ly had urged in testimony to a US government committee in February that the US Congress delay ratification of a bilateral trade agreement until Vietnam eases restrictions on religion.

His harsh sentence could speed up US Senate action on a separate Vietnam human rights act that Vietnam's Communist Party has severely criticised. The act, already passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives, would halt future US non-humanitarian aid unless Vietnam's government improves its human rights record.

Ly was placed under administrative detention, the equivalent of house arrest, after his testimony to the US committee in February. In March, the government also banned him from running his church.

In a one-day trial, a court in central Hue city sentenced him to two years in prison for defying the detention order and 13 years for "undermining the national unity policy of the state".

SOURCE
AP


22-Oct-01