Viet­nam frees dis­si­dent priest ahead of Obama’s visit

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE -

Bangkok: Viet­nam granted early re­lease from pri­son to a Catholic priest who is one of its most prom­i­nent dis­si­dents, a move widely seen as a good­will ges­ture be­fore Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ar­rives on an of­fi­cial visit late Sun­day night.

The Catholic Arch­dio­cese of the cen­tral city of Hue re­ported on its web­page that it wel­comed the re­turn Fri­day of the Rev Nguyen Van Ly from pri­son. Pho­tos on its web­site showed a frail Ly, 70, be­ing helped off a minibus, kneel­ing to pay his re­spects to his se­nior col­leagues, then be­ing led to a room pre­pared for him at the dio­cese. He has suf­fered sev­eral health crises while im­pris­oned.

Ly has served sev­eral long terms in pri­son or un­der house ar­rest for pro­mot­ing po­lit­i­cal and reli­gious free­doms in the com­mu­nist na­tion. He was first jailed in 1977, two years af­ter the Com­mu­nist takeover of all Viet­nam.

His early re­lease was for an eightyear pri­son term he had been serv­ing since March 2007 af­ter be­ing con­victed of spread­ing pro­pa­ganda against the state. He was re­leased on med­i­cal pa­role in 2010 for 16 months be­fore be­ing sent back to pri­son in 2011 to re­sume serv­ing his sen­tence, to which a five- year pro­ba­tion­ary pe­riod is also at­tached.

Viet­nam’s per­se­cu­tion of dis­si­dents has been a road­block to warmer re­la­tions with the United States, from which it is seek­ing the lift­ing of an arms em­bargo. Wash­ing­ton and Hanoi share a strate­gic in­ter­est in chal­leng­ing Chi­nese ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea, some of which are in ar­eas long claimed by Viet­nam.

The gov­ern­ment’s re­la­tions have al­ways been strained with the Catholic church, as­so­ci­ated with French colo­nial rule and the for­mer an­ti­com­mu­nist South Viet­nam, as well as an in­flu­en­tial power base in­de­pen­dent of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s con­trol.

The US State De­part­ment said it wel­comed Ly’s re­lease. “We con­sis­tently have called for the re­lease of Fa­ther Ly and all other pris­on­ers of con­science in Viet­nam,” said Gabrielle Price, the de­part­ment’s spokes­woman for East Asia and Pa­cific af­fairs. “We re­main deeply con­cerned for all pris­on­ers of con­science in Viet­nam. We call on the gov­ern­ment to re­lease un­con­di­tion­ally all pris­on­ers of con­science and al­low all Viet­namese to ex­press their po­lit­i­cal views peace­fully with­out fear of ret­ri­bu­tion.”

More than a dozen hu­man rights groups last month sent an ap­peal to Obama urg­ing him to press Hanoi to re­lease po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers. The ap­peal, whose signees in­cluded Hu­man Rights Watch as well as groups fo­cus­ing on Viet­nam, urged him “to make clear, both in pri­vate and in pub­lic, that ( the) US- Viet­namese re­la­tion­ship will not fun­da­men­tally ad­vance ab­sent mean­ing­ful hu­man rights im­prove­ments.”

— AP — PTI — AP cor­re­spon­dent@ dnain­dia. net — AP — AP

Law en­force­ment per­son­nel stand guard near the El­lipse south of the White House on Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue, on Fri­day af­ter the tres­passer was shot A man watches as young­sters dance dur­ing a mu­sic and laser show, in a for­est out­side Bucharest, Romania, early on Satur­day. Peo­ple at­tended in large num­bers a dis­play of laser light­ing and mu­sic that lasted un­til the morn­ing hours — AP Nguyen Van Ly is wel­comed back to his par­ish in Hue, Ha Nam province, Viet­nam

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