Father Thadeus Nguyen Van LyVietnam

Father Ly, 69, is a Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest and activist who was rearrested by the Vietnamese government on July 25, 2011, ending one-year and four-months of temporary medical parole. Father Ly was previously arrested on February 18, 2007 for attempting to organize an election boycott. Father Ly was released on medical parole on March 15, 2010 after suffering three strokes. He continues to be in very ill health and has been under medical care for a brain tumor. Freedom Now also represented Father Ly during a previous detention.

Father Ly is one of Vietnam’s most prominent dissidents and has been a strong advocate for religious freedom and democracy for over 40 years.

Freedom Now first represented Father Ly during the latter part of his 2001-2005 detention. In May 2001, an estimated 60 policeman stormed An Truyen church to arrest Father Ly after he submitted invited testimony to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Father Ly’s testimony urged the U.S. government to reject a U.S.-Vietnam trade pact to protest ongoing human rights abuses in Vietnam. To read Father Ly’s testimony, click here.

After his arrest, the Vietnamese government denied Father Ly access to legal counsel. On October 19, 2001, the Thua Thien Hue Provincial People’s Court convicted Father Ly after a two-hour, closed trial. Father Ly received a sentence of 15 years in prison and five years under house arrest, including 13 years in prison for “damaging the Government’s unity policy.”

After a sustained campaign by Freedom Now, Father Ly was released in February 2005.

Father Ly returned to his advocacy work but was again detained on February 18, 2007. During his four-hour trial, Father Ly shouted out “down with communism” and a security guard immediately silenced him by clamping his hand over his mouth.









Father Ly was sentenced to eight years in prison on March 30, 2007, for allegedly committing “very serious crimes that harmed national security” by attempting to organize a boycott of an upcoming election. During his imprisonment, Father Ly suffered three strokes and was regularly denied proper medical care.

Father Ly was granted an amnesty on May 19, 2016 and returned home where he is currently serving five years house arrest.

Freedom Now represents Father Ly as his international pro bono legal counsel.


Selected documents from Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly's case
Attack on a Diplomat Shows Vietnam’s Contempt for Human Rights February 26, 2011

Washington Post Op-Ed by former Freedom Now client Dr. Nguyen Dan Que commenting on the attack against a U.S. diplomat in Vietnam after the diplomat attempted to visit former Freedom Now client Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly.

Congressional DebatesMay 11, 2004

U.S. House of Representatives debates regarding Resolution 378.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseSeptember 3, 2010

Announcing the opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseMarch 15, 2010

Announcing that Father Ly was released from prison.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseNovember 16, 2009

Regarding Father Ly's second stroke in prison.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseJuly 1, 2009

Announcing the letter signed by 37 U.S. Senators to President Triet of Vietnam.

Freedom Now Press ReleaseMarch 4, 2004

Announcing a press conference with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Nina Shea, Vice Chair of the US International Religious Freedom Commission to announce the Working Group’s decision. The participants in the press conference also announced the simultaneous filing of resolutions, H. Con. Res. 378 in the House, and S. Res. 311 in the Senate, calling for Father Ly’s release.

Freedom Now Response to the Government's ReplyNovember 14, 2003

Responding to the Reply of the Government of Vietnam to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

House Urges Vietnam to Release PriestMay 13, 2004

Associated Press article.

Joint Letter to President Obama on VietnamApril 26, 2016

Joint letter from Freedom Now and 18 other organizations calling on President Obama to raise the cases of several prisoners of conscience when he visits Vietnam next month.

Letter from 16 members of the U.S. SenateAugust 24, 2011

Urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to engage personally with the Government of Vietnam on behalf of Father Ly.

Letter from 37 U.S. SenatorsJuly 1, 2009

Addressed to President Triet of Vietnam urging the release of Father Ly.

Letter from Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrickNovember 19, 2004

Addressed to the President of Vietnam urging Father Ly's release.

Letter from Members of the U.S. House of Representatives February 1, 2013

Nominating Father Ly and the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do of Vietnam for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionSeptember 3, 2010

Finding Father Ly's detention a violation of international human rights law.

Opinion of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMarch 4, 2004

Finding Father Ly's detention a violation of international law.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention February 27, 2009

Submitted by Freedom Now on behalf of Father Ly.

Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionSeptember 25, 2003

Filed by Freedom Now on behalf of Father Ly.

Selected MediaMarch 15, 2010

Covering Father Ly's release.

Selected MediaNovember 17, 2009

Regarding Father Ly's second stroke in prison.

Submission to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human RightsJune 7, 2013

Freedom Now submitted a report describing the Government of Vietnam's unlawful use of arbitrary detention to be considered as part of the Universal Periodic Review of Vietnam's human rights policies and practices.

Testimony Given by Father LyFebruary 13, 2001

Before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Time for Serious Approach to Vietnam Human RightsDecember 13, 2013

The Diplomat op-ed by Jared Genser and William McGillivary calling for Secretary of State John Kerry to use his trip to Vietnam to encourage Hanoi to improve its human rights record.

U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 378March 4, 2004

Calling for Father Ly's release.

U.S. Senate Resolution 311March 4, 2004

Calling for Father Ly's release.

Vietnam Must Release Religious Freedom AdvocateDecember 10, 2009

San Jose Mercury News Op-Ed by Maran Turner.

Vietnam Releases Two High Profile Dissidents from Jail in Lunar New Year AmnestyJanuary 31, 2005

Associated Press article by Margie Mason.