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Vietnamese Catholics on trial denied access to their lawyer

ICC Note:

Two of eight Catholics from the Thai Ha parish that have been scheduled to go on trial over the parish’s land dispute have been refused access to their lawyers in a case that some believe is turning “more and more into a political show trial.”


11/26/08 Vietnam (AsiaNews) Two of the eight Catholics set to go on trial for the Thai Ha parish land dispute have not been allowed to meet their lawyers, said one of them, Le Tran Luat. More importantly, he believes that the defendants are not likely to be acquitted despite their innocence because the trial is turning more and more into a political show trial.

“I was denied the permission to visit my clients there,” Mr Le said. However, even if he could see them, “prisoners are often forced to refuse any contact with their lawyers,” he added.

Those who do get to see their lawyers suffer mistreatment and punishment by prison guards.

For Mr Le from a legal point of view the charge of damaging state property is flawed because he has “enough evidence to prove that the land belongs to them [the parishioners].

In fact “the wall [they tore down] was built illegally on their land,” he said. And “they had every right to destroy it.” Hence the “government cannot charge them for damaging state property.”

“In my experience, in such a case, if defendants plead guilty as the government expects, they may get a tolerant verdict. Those who insist that they are not guilty will be sentenced more harshly [. . .], two and half or three years in jail.” But “I want to prove to public opinion that they actually are innocent,” Mr Le said.

Hanoi’s Redemptorist community, which oversees Thai ha Parish, is concerned about the fate of the two women, especially Ms Nguyen because she was targeted by vehement attacks in the state-run media for taking part in demonstrations over the former apostolic delegation compound.

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