Vietnam Arrests Priest

for Anti-Government Plots


Vietnam Arrests Priest for Anti-Government Plots.

Thursday May 17 9:02 AM ET

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnamese authorities arrested an outspoken Catholic priest on Thursday, accusing him of fomenting unrest against the government, the Foreign Ministry said.

Father Nguyen Van Ly was detained under a criminal law for failing to obey surveillance rules and agitating followers to cause public disorder, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh said in a written statement.

Earlier on Thursday, a local police officer told Reuters Ly was taken into custody at 5 a.m. (5 p.m. EDT Wednesday) by provincial police at his parish home in Phu An near the central city of Hue.

``He was arrested for spreading propaganda against the government,'' Nguyen Van Quang of Phu An commune police said.

The propaganda charges Ly faces carry penalties of 10 to 12 years in prison.

A longtime critic of the government, Ly has previously spent nearly 10 years in prison and was on Amnesty International's list of prisoners of conscience.

On Wednesday, Ly led a religious service of about 150 people in which police said he distributed leaflets. The government said the leaflets were anti-communist.

Spokeswoman Thanh said Ly had violated an article in the Penal Code and the detention took place in Phu An commune where he has been placed under ``administrative detention'' since February.

Ly, 54, had previously been under heavy police surveillance and in March was denounced by official media as a ``traitor'' for urging the United States to link religious freedom to ratification of a bilateral trade agreement with Vietnam.

``(Ly) continued to carry out behavior that affected public security and obstructed production and normal life of the people,'' Thanh said.

The arrest came amid growing criticism of Hanoi for persecution of religious groups, an accusation the government calls ``gross interference'' in its internal affairs.

Ly's detention coincided with a report that a dissident Buddhist leader was summoned for questioning in Ho Chi Minh City.

The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau said in a statement on Thursday that 73-year-old Thich Quang Do received a summons demanding he appear on Friday to explain ``a number of wrongful acts you have recently committed.''

The move could be related to Do's recent letter to the Vietnamese leadership in which he called for the release another dissident monk, the group said.

Do is the second-highest monk in the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam. The movement's patriarch, Thich Huyen Quang, 83, has been imprisoned for 19 years.

Official comment on Do's case was not immediately available.

Vietnam insists it grants full religious freedom to its citizens, but some sects are still outlawed.

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