Catholics on trial deny government allegations
Thuy Dung12/8/2008

Despite pressures and promises from police, Catholics of Thai Ha denied all charges from government denouncing injustice against them and the entire Church.

Protesting outside the court house
Parishioners holding palm leaves
At the end of today’s morning session of the trial in which 8 parishioners were charged of “damaging state property and disorderly conduct in public”, all of them pleaded unguilty challenging the government to prove that the property was seized legally by the law of Vietnam itself.

The property in disputed was purchased by Redemptorists in 1928 to build a convent and a church. Mass for the Inauguration of the convent was held on 7th May 1929. The church was inaugurated 6 years later, in 1935. After the communists’ takeover of the North in 1954, most Redemptorists were deported or jailed until death leaving Fr. Joseph Vu to run the parish alone.

Despite Fr. Joseph Vu’s persistent protests, local authorities had managed to nibble bite by bite the parish’s land illegally according to the very communist law. The original area of 61,455 square meters was reduced to 2,700 square meters as status quo.

Hanoi Redemptorists and their faithful at Thai Ha parish have repeatedly challenged the government to provide any legal documents to support their claim. The main argument of the eight Catholic defendants was that as so far the government still failed to do so, and the Redemptorists had all legal documents to prove their ownership of the land, the government had no way to charge them of “damaging state property and disorderly conduct in public” as everything occurred in their own land.

In July, Hanoi People’s Committee sent to Redemptorists a document claiming that it was a letter from Fr. Joseph Vu dated in 1962 in which he expressed his desire to donate the property to the government. Ridiculously, the letter was printed in a font from Microsoft that could not be available in 1960s. Prosecutors were attacked back by defendants when they mentioned the letter and challenged the government to publish it.

Despite the fact that Prosecutors failed to prove eight parishioners guilty, at the end, the court gave various guilty verdicts of suspended jail term from 12 to 15 months for seven of them. One of them received a warning.

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