Prosecutors deny Vietnamese Protestant's appeal of prison sentence

Thursday, March 16, 2000

16 March 2000 (Newsroom) -- Prosecutors in northern Vietnam rejected an appeal by a Protestant who was sentenced to prison in December for "interfering with an officer" while she hosted a Christian meeting.

At a March 10 hearing the provincial court of Viet Tri rejected Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thuy's appeal, which argued that the government has no case and that arresting officers violated her right of privacy and security, the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) Religious Liberty Commission reported.

Thuy was arrested on October 10 in Viet Tri, about 80 kilometers north of Hanoi, when police raided an evangelical Protestant worship and baptismal service in her home and detained all of the participants. After interrogation, police released everyone later that evening except for Thuy. She was sentenced on December 27 to one year in prison for "interfering with an officer of the law doing his duty." WEF contends, however, that Thuy's case is one of many in which Vietnamese security forces have provoked incidents in order to arrest Christians on charges unrelated to the practice of religion.

WEF says that Thuy's legal brief charged the authorities with denying her freedom to practice her religion as guaranteed by the Vietnamese constitution and other laws. The case was so clear to her lawyers, WEF said, that they concluded their brief with the words, "We recommend that the court pronounce the accused innocent in order to protect its reputation and the law of our land."

WEF sources in Vietnam reported earlier that Pho Tho Province authorities had responded to the brief by threatening supporters of Thuy's appeal and "creating many hardships and difficulties" for her lawyer.

Vietnam issued a decree in May that guarantees religious freedom, but since then unofficial Protestant churches report an increase in arrests and harassment. Vietnam has some 700,000 Protestants and about 8 million Roman Catholics.

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