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Vietnam jails Catholic activist over Facebook posts

Father of two handed 11-year sentence for 'smearing' the ruling Communist Party and 'inciting demonstrations'

ucanews reporter, Vinh

ucanews reporter, Vinh

Updated: November 15, 2019 11:00 AM GMT
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Vietnam jails Catholic activist over Facebook posts

Nguyen Nang Tinh’s wife and children raise banners saying 'My husband is innocent, return him to us' at their home in Vietnam's Nghe An province on Nov. 14. (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Tinh)

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A court in central Vietnam has jailed a Catholic activist for 11 years for educating people on human rights.

The state-run Nghe An newspaper reported that Peter Nguyen Nang Tinh, a music teacher and father of two, was also given five years’ probation, to be served after he is freed from prison.

The newspaper said Tinh had been found guilty on Nov. 15 of “conducting, storing and spreading information and materials to oppose the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” by the People’s Court of Nghe An province.

It said Tinh, who had been teaching at the College of Culture and Art in the city of Vinh before his arrest in May, posted on his Facebook page 22 articles, videos and pictures from 2011-18 that distorted the policies of the ruling Communist Party, smeared party leaders, infringed on the socialist regime and incited people to stage demonstrations against the government.

Sources said many police were deployed around the court and blocked all streets leading to the building. Three lawyers and Tinh’s wife Nguyen Thi Tinh were, however, allowed to attend the trial.

‘I am thirsty for freedom’

Tinh’s wife said he told the judges: “I am thirsty for a country of freedom and democracy. I am concerned about the fate of the nation, the polluted environment and Chinese threats to invade the country’s sovereignty.

“I will not change my political views even if I am given jail sentences of 10, 20 years or even the death sentence.”

Rights lawyer Le Quoc Quan praised Tinh’s defiance and said he had acted for the benefit of the people without ever violating the law. “Tinh is a patriotic and innocent man,” he said.

Quan, a former work colleague of Tinh’s, said the 43-year-old was anxious about the pain being suffered and the freedom being lost by Vietnamese people, especially Catholics.

Tinh, he maintained, had done no more than educate the people on how to be patriotic and how to be aware of their legal rights.

Quan said Tinh’s biggest concern was how people could acquire real control over their lives and be involved in the running of the country and its government. Catholics enjoy religious freedom and take part in educational, health care and charitable activities.

Tinh, who was arrested in May, taught parish children the banned song “Giving back (rights) to the people” composed by an activist. He wanted to sow patriotism and honesty among people, especially children.

Quan said fighting for justice and people’s rights was never-ending and hard work that should be done by generations, in every place and under all regimes. “I protest this trial and other unfair trials happening throughout the country,” he said.

Before the trial, Catholics gathered at many churches to attend special Masses and pray for Tinh to be at peace and for the government to try him fairly. They also raised banners that declared “Tinh innocent, free Tinh.”

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