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Vietnam court upholds Catholic activist's long jail sentence

Teacher's wife says he has been wrongly imprisoned for 'a crime of patriotism'

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

Updated: April 21, 2020 10:13 AM GMT
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Vietnam court upholds Catholic activist's long jail sentence

Nguyen Nang Tinh and his wife and children pictured in February 2019 before his arrest. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Tinh)

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A high court in central Vietnam has confirmed the conviction of a Catholic teacher who used social media posts to teach people about rights.

The People’s High Court on April 20 rejected an appeal by Peter Nguyen Nang Tinh and upheld his previous 11-year sentence in jail and another five years’ probation imposed by a lower court last November.

The People’s Public Security newspaper reported that Tinh, a music teacher, was accused of conducting and spreading information to oppose the communist state. He was found guilty of writing and posting articles that defamed and opposed the communist government, rejected its achievements and distorted its history on his Facebook account.  

It said the father of two showed disrespect for the law and had fought against the state, so it was essential to impose a serious punishment to chastise and re-educate him and warn others.

Tinh’s wife Mary Nguyen Thi Tinh said the sentence was extremely unfair on her husband, who “committed a crime of patriotism, fighting against injustice and protecting the nation’s islands and waters.”

She said Tinh taught children the banned song “Returning [human rights] to the people,” took part in public protests protecting Vietnam’s islands from Chinese invasion and opposing a cybersecurity law, spoke against social injustice and spread information useful for the people in social media.

She said her 44-year-old husband was on hunger strike for 46 days to oppose prison officials who refused to allow him to meet priests to prepare for Easter. He only stopped his hunger strike on April 17 after he was told about his appeal date. He is imprisoned at Nghi Kim Camp in Vinh City.

“My husband still demands to meet a priest after the appeal court. If his demand is not met, he will resume his hunger strike,” she said, adding that her husband was fighting for the right to practice religion of himself and other Catholic prisoners.

The woman, who teaches at a college in the southern province of Dong Thap and could not attend the appeal court due to national coronavirus measures, said the 2.5-hour appeal was like a play happening amid the agony of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She accused government authorities of inhumanely bringing him to court when he is in poor health and the pandemic has hit the country. “They wanted to kill him,” she said.

“I strongly condemn the judges and prison officials for upholding his wrongful conviction and treating him unfairly,” she said.

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