Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Hanoi appellate court has rejected the appeals of eight Thai Ha’s parishioners convicted last year of disturbing public order and damaging property during a series of demonstrations to demand the return of former church land. The court of appeal in Hanoi has just upheld the sentence imposed by the lower court in December last year in which seven of those defendants received unjust stayed sentences ranging from 12 to 17 months and the other got a warning.

"There is no ground for the appeal," said court president Nguyen Quoc Hoi. "The defendants' behavior was dangerous for society, causing serious consequences... undermining the great national unity," he added.

The sentence, came in the absence of the Catholics' principal lawyer, has been seen by many as unjust to the 8 defendants, and a blunt rejection on those who are passionately seeking for justice.

The defendants argued they were merely exercising their right to free speech and committed no crime. "We are innocent," defendant Le Thi Hoi told the court. "Peaceful prayer cannot be dubbed 'disturbing the public order.'"

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In an open defiance against intimidation from Vietnamese authorities through state media, dozens of Redemptorists and diocesan priests led more than 5000 faithful to participate in a “highly spirited" demonstration 200m away from the court house.

At 6 o'clock, after the morning Mass, thousands of Thai Ha’s parishioners marched 12km from their church to the court house. They sang and prayed loudly along Nguyen Trai Street to gain attention of passer-bys.

Meanwhile, thousands of Ha Dong parishioners, who have repeatedly held prayer vigils at their presteby which has been seized legally by communists since 1977, joined Thai Ha’s parishioners in the electrifying demonstration being held in front of more than 1000 anti-riot police men equipped with batons, stun guns and specially trained dogs.

The protestors held placards reading: "Justice, truth" and "You are innocent" criticizing the unjust trial.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The night before the trial, VTV1- the same Television station which deliberately broadcasted falsely 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! Other state media outlets have shared the same language in a concerted effort to limit the number of Catholics whose their attendance is foreseeable.

Armed police was reportedly raid home in Ha Dong's neighborhoods where the trial would take place the next day. Few people were held in custody and others were expelled out of the area. Residents were warned not to allow anyone who had not registered with police to stay during the night at their homes or face severe punishment for their "not cooperating".

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The Catholic defendants have obviously been deprived of their right to legal representation in accordance with due process as their principal lawyer, Mr. Le Tran Luat, could not attend the trial. Two other lawyers who have recently involved in the case advocated for 7 defendants. Nguyen Thi Nhi had to defend for herself as her only advocate, Mr. Le Tran Luat, had his license revoked.

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 license 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 would no longer serve as their legal counsel because the Ho Chi Minh City Police has been doing everything they can to prevent him from travelling to Hanoi.

Today, state-run media outlet, including the Communist Party's mouthpiece, Nhan Dan, carried articles saying the lawyer had used false documents and employed non-attorneys to work as lawyers. He also failed to pay taxes, the newspaper said.