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ICC Note: 14 Catholic and Protestant activists in Vietnam have had their appeal hearings postponed indefinitely by Vietnam’s supreme court this week. The Christians were arrested for being members of a pro-democracy group that is illegal in Vietnam and convicted of plotting to “overthrow” the Vietnamese government back in January. It is not uncommon to find Christians in positions as activists in countries like Vietnam and China where their religious convictions lead them to vocally support greater political and religious freedoms.
4/24/13 Vietnam (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese Supreme Court has adjourned to an unspecified date the appeal trial of 14 young Catholics and Protestants from Vinh and Thanh Hoa, convicted in January by a lower court on terrorism charges. The decision was announced in a letter signed by a judge on 18 April. The appeal trial was set for today.
According to some, the decision is related to recent positions taken by the US government and the European Parliament, who have openly criticised the Vietnamese government for violations of human rights and religious freedom.
In its letter announcing the postponement of the trial, the Court justified its action claiming that some jury members were unable to attend because they were detained elsewhere for “family reasons”.
At the same time, the judges did not set a future date for the start of the appeal process. One of the defence lawyers, who urged the court to pick a day, was told that “today there are no dates on the calendar.”
For the relatives of the accused, these moves are orchestrated by the government, which is trying to “maintain” the climate of uncertainty surrounding the trial in order to “discourage” potential opponents, at a time when signatures are being collected across the country demanding their release.
Bishops, priests, lay people and Buddhist monks have held prayers in support of the group, which is increasingly becoming an “icon” of the “non-violent” struggle against corruption.
The activists ended up in court because they belong to a movement called Viet Tan, a non-violent group that supports democracy and has ties with the United States, but deemed “terrorist” by the authorities.
According to people who were at the trial, the defendants often said that their action was meant to help the population, spreading news and criticism about corruption among party and government members who got rich during the financial crisis.
In recent weeks, they have been allegedly abused and ill-treated in prison. Prison authorities have been accused of denying them medical drugs and other basic necessities, as well as preventing them from having newspapers, books and writing material.

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