Today, a bipartisan group of 16 members of the United States Senate, led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to urge the Vietnamese government to release longtime human rights advocate Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly.

In the letter, the Senators declared:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the re-arrest of Father Nguyen Van Ly by the Government of Vietnam and urge you to impress upon the Vietnamese government that it should immediately release him from prison.. . . . The Government of Vietnam must be made aware that its continued refusal to permit the peaceful advocacy of basic human rights impedes the progression of U.S.-Vietnam relations. The governments of both Vietnam and the United States have indicated that they seek enhanced relations. Releasing Father Ly would be an important step toward demonstrating that Vietnam is serious about achieving that goal.

Other signatories to the letter included Minority Whip Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Assistant Majority Leader Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), as well as Chairman of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner stated, “It is significant that 16 U.S. Senators are calling on Secretary Clinton to engage personally with the Government of Vietnam on behalf of Father Ly. It is our hope that Secretary Clinton will use all means possible to bring an end to Father Ly’s unlawful detention and allow him to receive the medical treatment that he requires.”

Father Ly is a 65 year-old Catholic priest and one of Vietnam’s most prominent advocates for religious freedom, democracy, and human rights. In a trial that violated international fair trial standards, Father Ly was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years of house arrest on March 30, 2007 for engaging in pro-democracy advocacy. Father Ly suffered multiple strokes and was diagnosed with a brain tumor in prison and was released on medical parole on March 15, 2010. However, sixteen months later, Father Ly was rearrested on July 25, 2011. He continues to be in very poor health.

Freedom Now represents Father Ly as international pro bono legal counsel. In 2010, Freedom Now obtained a decision from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declaring Vietnam to be in violation of international law and calling for Father Ly to be free from arbitrary detention.