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ICC Note: Vietnamese Catholic priest and members of his parish in Vietnam’s Nghe An province demand justice for a land dispute incident that took place last December, where many of the parishioners were beaten by state-sponsored thugs. However, instead of probing the thugs, the police trump up charges against the parishioners.

05/17/2018 Vietnam (Radio Free Asia) – A Vietnamese Catholic priest and members of his parish in north-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province have submitted a letter to local authorities asking that they be allowed to provide testimony on behalf of another parishioner whom authorities are prosecuting on phony charges related to a land dispute incident.

Father Nguyen Duc Nhan and the members of Ke Gai parish under the Vinh diocese in Hung Nguyen district’s Hung Tay commune submitted the letter on May 11 about fellow church member Vo Dinh Phuc, accused of “illegally detaining other people.”

They made the request just four days after they petitioned provincial police to take action against local officials they say ordered thugs to beat them as they tried to make improvements on disputed land claimed both by church and local authorities.

The thugs, known as “Red Flags” for the national flag emblems they wear on their shirts, attacked the parishioners on Dec. 17 as they dug an irrigation ditch on the land to prevent their fields from flooding.

The beatings, which left one parishioner unconscious, took place in front of police who did nothing to stop them, witnesses told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

The provincial police office acknowledged receipt of the complaint in a Jan. 29 letter, but instead summoned four parishioners on May 3 for questioning about their alleged involvement in the Dec. 17 incident.

The four refused to meet with police, and parishioners responded with their petition accusing authorities of trying to make the complaint disappear by threatening them.

Nghe An police sent two more summonses with a more serious but phony charge that the parishioners had “illegally detained other people.”

One of these notices, sent to Vo Dinh Phuc on May 9, said that he would receive notification of authorities’ decision on the charge.

Phuc said the accusations are inaccurate.

“I am a common peasant,” he told RFA. “Until now, I haven’t had a criminal record. I am both a good citizen and a Catholic.”

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