Vuong Van Tha is guarded by police at the court on Jan. 23. (Photo courtesy of Baoangiang.com)
A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced four Buddhists to a total of 31 years in prison for conducting campaigns against the communist government.
The People's Court of An Giang province on Jan. 23 sentenced Vuong Van Tha, 49, to 12 years in prison and his son Vuong Thanh Thuan, 28, to seven years. Twins Nguyen Nhat Truong and Nguyen Van Thuong, 33, were both jailed for six years.
The four defendants from the indigenous Hoa Hao Buddhist sect were also given three years' probation each.
"When the trial began, my husband cried in protest and refused to accept a lawyer nominated by the judge," said Tha's wife Le Thi Le Ha.
Ha, who was the only relative of the four defendants to attend the trial, said Tha also complained that the trial was unfair and that few of his relatives were allowed to attend.
"Police controlled him while the three other defendants hit their heads against the table to protest the judge," she said. "Then they took him to a private room where he could listen to the sentence and the trial ended."
According to the indictment, Tha, a father of two, used loudspeakers to slam government leaders for persecuting Hoa Hao followers, spread anti-government videos on social media, and called on people to protest the government.
Truong and Thuong were accused of giving food to Tha's family and supporting his work.
A local Hoa Hao Buddhist sect leader said the sentences "are very severe because the defendants have poor education."
He said Tha only finished first grade, his son reached seventh grade and Truong and Thuong are illiterate.
….As we enter the first months of 2022, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.