Vietnamese democracy priests arrested

Weeks after Pope Benedict met for the first time with Vietnam's Prime Minister, the country's security forces have detained two activist priests from Ho Chi Minh City and the central city of Hue.

Playfuls reports that police detained outspoken Catholic priest, Fr Nguyen Van Ly, 59, Tuesday for "acts of incitement".

It was unclear Tuesday how the detention of Father Ly, who has previously spent 14 years in prison, would affect communist Vietnam's stated goal of establishing diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Police raided Father Ly's diocese home in the central province of Hue on Sunday, the second day of the lunar new year holiday weekend, according to dissident groups and local media.

Authorities seized six laptop computers and numerous documents and placed the priest under house arrest, according to the Free News Agency, an information service linked to the country's banned pro-democracy movement.

The government-run Vietnam News Agency also reported Tuesday that police had searched Father Ly's home while "investigating acts of legal violation by Ly."

The article accused Father Ly of "acts of incitement and gathering some elements against the authority."

The priest's detention may have been part of a general crackdown on opposition leaders in Hue.

Father Ly spent 10 years in prison between 1983 and 1992. He was rearrested in 2001 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for "undermining national unity," a crime under Article 87 of Vietnam's penal code.

Police in Hue also arrested Nguyen Phong and Nguyen Binh Thanh, co-founders of an illegal opposition political party, over the weekend. Their whereabouts remained unknown Tuesday and government officials could not be reached for comment over the Tet holiday.

In another arrest, Vietnamese security forces also detained 86-year-old Catholic Priest Chan Tin, who is editor-in-chief of Tu Do Ngon Luan or 'Freedom of Speech' Magazine, was detained at the Dong Chua Cuu The Church or 'Savior Jesus Christ Church' in Saigon, according to the 'International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam' (IMDHR) which comprises dissidents in Vietnam and Vietnamese exiles.

It was not immediately clear what charges had been filed against the priest, BosNewsLife reports.

Image source: Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre

Vietnamese Police Detain Dissident Catholic Priest (Playfuls, 20/2/07)
Vietnam Police Detain Prominent Catholic Priest And Key Activists (BosNewsLife, 20/2/07)

Vietnam Catholics upbeat over PM meeting with Benedict (CathNews, 31/1/07)
Vietnam PM in first Vatican visit (CathNew, 24/1/07)
France no longer Catholic, survey reveals (CathNews, 12/1/07)
Cardinals meet in Vietnam "turning point" (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Mother Teresa's order invited to Vietnam (CathNews, 15/11/06)

21 Feb 2007