July 26, 2011
Contact: Maran Turner
+1 202 223-3733
Washington, D.C.: Yesterday, the Government of Vietnam arrested Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a 65 year-old Catholic priest and prominent pro-democracy advocate. Authorities arrested Father Ly at 2:30 p.m. at his home in Hue, ending one-year and four-months of temporary medical parole. Father Ly continues to be in very ill health. He has suffered three strokes and has been under medical care for a brain tumor.
Father Ly is one of Vietnam’s most prominent advocates for religious freedom, democracy, and human rights. For his legitimate advocacy, he has been detained repeatedly by Vietnamese authorities and held in solitary confinement for long periods. In October 2001, the government sentenced Father Ly to 15 years in prison after he submitted solicited testimony to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding ongoing human rights abuses in Vietnam. Father Ly was released in February 2005 after a sustained campaign by Freedom Now. Two years later, the government again detained Father Ly for his advocacy work and sentenced him to eight years in prison and five years of house arrest. After a second campaign by Freedom Now and others, the government released him in March 2010 on the basis of medical need. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rendered a decision in 2010, finding the Vietnam government’s prosecution and detention of Father Ly a violation of international law. In recent months, authorities were placed outside Father Ly’s residence, significantly limiting his access to the outside world.
Maran Turner, the Executive Director of Freedom Now, said, “I am outraged that the Vietnam government has rearrested Father Ly. Its actions are a gross violation of international law, and demonstrate a lack of basic human compassion for a man in very poor health. The government must release Father Ly.”
Freedom Now represents Father Ly as international pro bono legal counsel. On his behalf, Freedom Now obtained a decision from the UN Working Group and has helped mobilized significant U.S. support, including from 37 U.S. Senators who sent a letter to Vietnam’s president in 2009 calling for an end to Father Ly’s illegal detention.