Press Release of The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media

The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media

92 The River Rd - Revesby NSW 2212
Tel: (02) 9773 0933
Fax: (02) 9773 3998



Contact: Fr. Paul Van Chi Chu
Tel: (02) 9773 0933
Mob: 0410 552 650

Sydney, March 27. The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media strongly denounces the continual manipulation of the justice system by the Vietnamese communist government which has been expressing throughout the process leading to and during the court of appeal proceeding brought by the Thai Ha parishioners today.

On Dec 8, 2008, the People's Court in Hanoi tried 8 Thai-Ha parishioners on false charges of "damaging state property and disorderly conduct in public". These charges were originally filed because the said eight people had taken part in prayer vigils to demand the return of land taken from their parish. To these charges, each and every one of them pleaded not guilty. Despite convincing evidences which were overwhelmingly supportive of their claim, seven of those defendants eventually received unjust stayed sentences ranging from 12 to 17 months.

Immediately after the trial, state-owned media knowingly and purposely reported that Catholic defendants "admitted their guilt" and therefore received reduced sentences, thank to tolerant policies of the party and leniency of the government. This was a blatant distortion of the truth by all accounts.

To this, the Catholic defendants had filed a law suit against media for false reporting of what they truly pleaded at the trial. They also announced their intention to file an appeal at the conclusion of the Dec. 8 court.

To date, state media have never made any attempt to reconcile with the truth. Instead of making corrections, they have launched a smear campaign against the victims and the Redemptorists.

The night before the court of appeal is schedule to take place, VTV1- the same Television station which deliberately broadcasted that the defendants had all pleaded guilty instead of reporting their pleas of innocence at the trial in lower court- had accused the Redemptorists of instigating their parishioners, those defendants " who were at the receiving end of the state's precious clemency, but foolishly gave in to the Redemptorists' instigation and committed disorderly conducts" The media outlet publicly questioned why the priests have not been arrested by now!

Also, the time period leading up to the trial has been marked by a crescendo of harassment and intimidation by Vietnamese authorities against Le Tran Luat, the attorney representing the defendants, including detention, searches, interrogation, phone threats, banning him from travelling to Hanoi, as well as taking away from him his licence to practice. Against all this state media is carrying out a smear campaign against him as a person and a servant of the public.

It is outrageous that a week before the trial, Hanoi court officials contacted the defendants to inform them outright that there was a chance Mr. Luat, their counsel of record would no longer serve in their case as the Ho Chi Minh City Police has been doing everything they can to prevent him from travelling to Hanoi.

The Catholic defendants have obviously been deprived of their right to legal representation in accordance with due process.

This incident again demonstrates that Vietnam government has consistently in contempt of the laws they drafted and passed by utilizing law enforcement and powerful, monopolistic media outlets to put pressure on or to intimidate any citizen who dares to challenge its authority, and to cause fear or deter anyone who is seeking for justice in this country.

Today, March 27, 2009 the court of appeal in Hanoi has reportedly just upheld the sentence imposed by the lower court in December of 2008, a sentence many have observed as unjust to the 8 defendants, a blunt rejection on those who are passionately seeking for justice.

We would like to report to the international community and our fellow-countrymen living at home and abroad about the nature of the trial, and the true color of the so-called "tolerant policies of the party and the government". We, thereby, vehemently protest the imposing sentences as they are unjust, immoral and absolutely unconstitutional to the 8 defendants who have done nothing against the law.

The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media urges the Vietnam government to do the followings:

1. Vacate the unjust sentences being upheld on 8 Thai Ha defendants by the Appellate court.
2. Stop the hate campaign against the Catholic priests and the faithful, their legal advocates as well as followers of other religions.
3. Stop persecuting the Catholic priests and the faithful, their legal advocates as well as followers of other religions. Also to restore law and order in worshiping areas to prevent violence aimed at participants.
4. Respect the law they promulgated and return the properties which rightfully belonged to the Catholic Church and other religious groups.

Fr. Paul Van Chi Chu
Tel: (02) 9773 0933
Mob: 0410 552 650

Mons. Peter Tai Van Nguyen
Director of Radio Veritas Asia
Buick St. North Fairview,
Quezon City, Philippines
P.O. Box 2642

Fr. John Nghi Tran
Director of VietCatholic News Agency
435 Berkeley Ave
Claremont, CA 91711, USA
Tel (909) 581-8888

Fr. Joachim Viet-Chau Nguyen Duc
Director of People Of God Magazine in America
PO Box 1419 Gretna,
LA 70053-5440, USA.

Fr. Anthony Quang Huu Nguyen
Director of People Of God Magazine in Australia
715 Sydney Rd. Brunswick Vic 3056

Fr. Stephen Luu Thuong Bui
Director of People Of God Magazine in Europe
Magazine Catholique
Katholische Monatszeitschrift
Monthly Catholic Magazine

Fr. Paul Van-Chi Chu
Director of Gospel and Peace Radio, Sydney Australia
92 The River Rd - Revesby
NSW 2212