Vietnam Releases "Tortured" House Church Christian From Jail

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

By BosNewsLife News Center

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- A Degar Montagnard who worshipped in a house church in Vietnam's Central Highlands was free Monday, May 7, after weeks of imprisonment and torture in March and April, fellow believers said.

The Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI) told BosNewsLife that 29-year-old Rcom Gliu, from Plei Del village in Gia Lai province, was released from prison "after being repeatedly tortured" in the last two months.

"Security forces also threatened him and his family members with torture and imprisonment if he attends further house church prayer meetings or reports his situation to the international community," MFI said. Vietnamese officials were not immediately available for comment, but have in the past denied MFI repots, saying it was part of Western "propaganda."

The latest period of imprisonment began April 5 when security forced detained him while he was walking with his wife and three year old child to their farm, only a few hundred yards from their house. "Two Vietnamese security police in a jeep stopped them and took them to their office at the commune of Ia To. Here, the police handcuffed Rcom Gliu and took him to the police station at Ia Grai district" where he was "mercilessly tortured," MFI claimed.


"The Vietnamese security police used their martial art skills, [including] karate chopping on his neck, boxing on his face and ears [and] kicking him on his sides and face," said the group, which represents many Degar Montagnard Christians.

"They also stomped him on his back and beat him with their batons over his entire body until he became unconscious," MFI added. Fearing that he had died police reportedly rushed him to a nearby clinic where he received an unknown drug. "When he awoke police took him back to prison and put him in the cell with Vietnamese criminals...The Vietnamese criminal prisoners with encouragement from police seized Rcom Gliu and stretched out his arms and feet as they tied him to the wall, beating him up until he became unconscious again," MFI said.

His wife reportedly confirmed signs of torture when she briefly met her husband in prison April 7, but was later refused another visit, MFI said. He was earlier detained on March 13, when Vietnamese security police summoned him to their office. They allegedly tortured him by using the same "martial art skills" as in April. He was released 10 days later.

Previously, in November 2005, he was also detained by police who allegedly became enraged by his house church activities and refusal to join the Communist government backed denomination.


"You really are a hard headed person" police was quoted as saying in remarks published by MFI. They allegedly tortured him by boxing him with their hands, kicking him with their boots and beating him with batons.

"They repeated the torture for several hours [but] at midday [they] went to lunch leaving him handcuffed to a table leg," MFI said. He managed to escape and went into hiding in a forest till March of 2006, MFI reported, adding that he "decided to return to his village believing he would be better off seeing his family a last time before he would die of illness or got killed by security forces."

The reported incidents came after Rcom Gliu in September 2006 was returned to Vietnam by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cambodia where he sough refuge from persecution, after the organization reportedly received assurances from the Hanoi government about his safety.


However, "The Vietnamese government since that time has arrested, tortured and imprisoned him on numerous occasions thus breaking promises to the international community they would not retaliate against returnees," MFI said in a statement.

It added that it remains concerned about his future. On April 25 Vietnamese security police allegedly summoned Rcom Gliu’s father to collect his son from the prison in the region of Ia Grai, warning him that, "If Rcom Gliu will worship again in the [house] church with many people" he "would be arrested again and send to prison."

Security police allegedly also warned his father he would be arrested if they would see him again walking on the street "like he used to do" or if he reports "to the people in the United States of America" about his imprisonment and apparent torture.


"When Rcom Gliu got home, he could barely stand due to the torture he received whilst in custody," MFI said. "He could barely eat also because his ribs were cracked or broken. His father did manage to get permission to take him to the hospital for X-Ray but security police kept him under close surveillance..."

In addition two security police officers allegedly followed him and watched his house, preventing relatives and friends from other villages to visiting him. They were reportedly threatened with imprisonment if they talk to him. These was not an isolated incident, MFI and other human rights groups suggest.

They have reported pressure on house church Christians elsewhere in Vietnam and questioned the US decision to drop Vietnam from its List of Countries of Particular Concern regarding religious rights violations. In addition hundreds of mainly indigenous Montagnard Degar Christians from the Central Highlands are still in prison. Several of them have died in recent years, according to several human rights watchers. (With reporting from Vietnam and BosNewsLife Research).

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