1/27/11 Vietnam (AsiaNews) – A sham trial has confirmed the sentences on appeal for the six accused in the Con Dau parish episode. The defendants entered the Danang People’s Court at 7.45 yesterday, Jan. 26, at 10.20 the sentence was read.
Catholics in Vietnam had waited with mounting anticipation for the outcome of the appeal, not only those in Con Dau, since the story is an exemplary case of how authorities exploit the enormous growth in land values and violate the rights of citizens. In a story that wafts the scent of corruption, the faithful have been deprived of their homes, and even the cemetery of the parish to make way for a property investment. Beaten and arrested, during the trial they were denied the right to defense, their lawyers in turn, threatened and detained by police. The U.S. ambassador had cited the same Con Dau case as one that raises “suspicions about the administration and use of the law by the government.”
In the daysleading up to the appeal, prayer vigils were held, especially the parish of Thai Ha, in Hanoi, the victim of a similar story of expropriated land, police violence, prosecutions and convictions.
This probably explains why the government press, reporting the trial, argued that the Court has reduced the sentences for two Catholics in prison. But it gives no further information.
In fact, as reported by Eglises d’Asie, the court decided to release, Nguyen Huu Minh and Phan Thi Nhan, who had been held in prison. Now they are on conditional probabtion. But the first had only three months of his prison term left to serve, teh second had already served the full sentence. The other four, Nguyen Huu Liem, Le Thanh Lam, Tran Thi Thanh and Nguyen Viet Thê saw their sentence confirmed, on probation, as it was before.
What was different about this trial was the presence of a defence lawyer, Huynh Van Dong. But only in a formal capacity. Ahead of the trial, in fact, the lawyer had claimed to have evidence of the total innocence of her clients and that she could demonstrate that the authorities had taken possession of the land to achieve their real estate projects. She claimed to have evidence, witnesses and even video of the May incident. But the court has not even taken the evidence into consideration.