This photo shows activist Nguyen Van Hoa standing trial at a local people's court in the central province of Ha Tinhon Nov 27. (Photo by Vietnam News Agency/AFP)
A priest in a northern Vietnamese province badly affected by marine pollution has accused the government of using dirty tricks to arrest an environmental activist.
Francis Nguyen Nam Phong, 37, from Ngoc Son parish, in Nghe An Province, dissappeared on Nov. 27 after a friend invited him to have a drink.
The following day, provincial public security officers told his wife he was arrested for "having sexual relations with prostitutes". On Nov. 29, they told her Phong was also charged with "opposing officers on duty."
Father John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc, of Song Ngoc parish, accused the government of "playing a dirty trick on Phong." He cited two previous cases in which police had used condoms as fake evidence to detain and imprison democracy activists.
The priest called Phong's detention "religious persecution" because the activist is also a parish council member, catechist and leader of a local Children of the Eucharist Movement.
"He is a gentle and good Catholic, and works for the common good," he priest said on Dec. 2.
Father Thuc called on all local priests and Catholics to speak out in support of Phong and demand his release.
He said Phong's arrest was probably connected to him encouraging people to file a lawsuit against the Taiwanese owners of the Formosa steel plant that spilled toxic waste into the sea in 2016 and took part in protests that followed.
On Nov. 27 authorities jailed blogger Nguyen Van Hoa, 21, for seven year for disseminating "anti-state propaganda." He too had spoken out about the Formosa steel plant spill.
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