Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest was most recently detained on February 17, 2007, after security police raided the Hue Archdiocese to arrest him and confiscate his computers. As a member of the Bloc 8406 pro-democracy movement, he was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on March 30, 2007, for allegedly committing "very serious crimes that harmed national security" for trying to a arrange a boycott of an upcoming election.
The court appearance was televised in Vietnam, with foreign reporters allowed to attend. During the trial, Father Ly shouted out "down with communism" in Vietnamese and a security guard immediately silenced him by putting his hand over his mouth.
Freedom Now was retained a second time to represent Father Ly in September 2008.
Previously, Father Ly received a sentence of 15 years imprisonment and 5 years house arrest for allegedly undermining state unity and violating a previously issued detention order by providing testimony to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Father Ly was formally invited to testify before the Commission on International Religious Freedom but could not attend personally because he was denied permission to leave Vietnam. Instead he submitted written testimony on February 13, 2001, which urged the United States to place pressure on Vietnam and to reject a U.S.-Vietnamese trade pact as a result of ongoing human rights abuses in Vietnam.
On February 26, 2001, in response to Father Ly's testimony, the Government issued an order for the administrative detention of Father Ly in which the Government alleged that Father Ly "committed actions in violation of the laws and harmful to the national security." On March 5, 2001, the Government publicly stated that it had placed Father Ly under administrative detention for "slandering" the Communist party and "distorting" the Government's policy on religion. Also in March, the Government banned him from operating his church.
In May 2001, a large number of policemen, possibly up to 600, surrounded and then stormed An Truyen church to arrest Father Ly. After the arrest, Father Ly was denied access to legal counsel. On October 19, 2001, the Thua Thien Hue Provincial People's Court convicted Father Ly after a two-hour, closed trial. Father Ly was sentenced to two years in prison for violating the terms of his administrative detention, thirteen years in prison for "damaging the Government's unity policy," and five years of administrative probation upon release from prison.
On September 25, 2003, Freedom Now filed a Petition to the United Nations Human Rights Commission Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. This Petition called for the immediate release of Father Ly. It also calls for a new trial to be conducted in accordance with the internationally-recognized rights and freedoms embodied in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights instruments. Later, Freedom Now received the Reply of the Government of Vietnam and submitted a Response to the Reply.
On February 12, 2004, Senator Sam Brownback convened a hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs on U.S.-Vietnamese Relations. Senator Brownback, Ambassador for Religious Freedom John Hanford, and Georgetown University Law Professor Viet Dinh all spoke extensively about Father Ly's case.
On March 4, 2004, Freedom Now hosted a press conference with Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), and Nina Shea, Vice Chair of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Commission, to announce the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued Opinion No. 20/2003 in Father Ly's case holding that he was being held in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In addition, the participants in the press conference also announced the simultaneous filing resolutions, H. Con. Res. 378 in the House, and S. Res. 311 in the Senate, calling for Father Ly's release. See, e.g., U.S. Lawmakers Call for Release of Imprisoned Vietnamese Priest , by Stephen Steele, Catholic News Service , March 8, 2004.
From L to R, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Jared Genser (Freedom Now), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Nina Shea (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom), and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ).
On March 31, 2004, the House International Relations Committee unanimously passed H.Con.Res. 378. On May 11, 2004, the resolution, by now co-sponsored by 107 Members of Congress, was debated in the House of Representatives and passed the Congress on a roll call vote of 424-1. See, e.g., House Urges Vietnam to Release Priest, Associated Press, May 13, 2004.
On November 18, 2004, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, wrote a letter to the President of Vietnam urging Father Ly's release.
On January 31, 2005, the Government of Vietnam announced it would release Father Ly from prison and he walked free a short time later. See, e.g., Vietnam Release Two High Profile Dissidents From Jail in Lunar New Year Amnesty, Associated Press.
After bring retained by a member of Father Ly's family again in September 2008, Freedom Now filed a Petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention his his behalf.
On June 1, 2009, 37 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Triet of Vietnam urging the release of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly. See Press Release.
© 2003 Freedom Now