Two lay Catholics, whose arrest by the Vietnamese government sparked a series of confrontations between civil officials and Catholic demonstrators in the Diocese of Vinh, have been sentenced to 7-month jail terms. The diocese of Vinh condemns both the verdict and the way trial was conducted.

“The fashion in which the so -called ‘public trial’ against two My Yen parishioners on 23/10/2013 Nghe An Province People's Court was conducted, and the sentence which state media praised wildly that ‘fitting the crime’, did not surprise the public opinion neither in Vietnam nor internationally on how a regular governmental affair would end: blaming all the responsibility to civilians in an attempt to cover up wrongdoings by public authorities,” said the statement of the diocese released on Oct. 26, 2013.

“Public opinion, however, strongly opposed the unjust and ambiguous judgment of Nghe An People's Provincial Court against Mr Ngo Van Khoi and Mr. Nguyen Van Hai,” went on.

Ngo Van Khoi and Nguyen Van Hai were arrested in June and held for weeks without charges. They were finally convicted of disturbing public order after a short court hearing that took place without prior notice.

“After meeting the two families and loved ones of Mr. Ngo Van Khoi and Mr. Nguyen Van Hai in Trai Gao, the Bishopric of Vinh can confirm that the prosecuting agencies did not inform the families of the docket for 10/23/2013. Although such notification is necessary to be done in order to convince people, especially in a case of which public opinion is having such particular interest for so many unsettling issues still existing, while Nghe An Newspaper kept calling it as just, transparent judgment and ‘the majority of the people have been following the trial with their highly approval,’ said Fr. Paul Nguyen Van Hieu, the diocese’s chancellor.

The priest insists that: “Diocese of Vinh constantly asks the authorities to release Ngo Van Khoi, Nguyen Van Hai and pay restitutions to those involved. We reaffirm our consistent view and legitimate demands for the unconditional release of them.”