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Letter to His Excellency Nguyen Minh Triet, President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Senators Boxer and Brownback Lead Call for Vietnam to Release Father Ly

Today, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) along with 35 of their colleagues wrote to Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet and called for the release of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest and human rights advocate.

The full text of the senators' letter follows:

July 1, 2009

His Excellency Nguyen Minh Triet
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
c/o Embassy of Vietnam
1233 20th St NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear President Triet:

We are writing to convey our serious concern regarding the continued detention of Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly and to ask for your assistance to ensure that Vietnam acts in a manner consistent with its own legal obligations and that of international law.

On February 18, 2007, your Government arrested Father Ly, a Catholic priest, at his parish in Hue. Shortly thereafter, on March 30, 2007, Father Ly was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years of house arrest for peacefully practicing his faith, expressing his political opinions, and associating with others who shared those opinions. As you are no doubt aware, Father Ly's longstanding non-violent activities to promote religious freedom and democracy in Vietnam are well known in the United States.

Based on information from international human rights advocacy organizations, it appears that Father Ly's arrest and trial were seriously flawed. During his trial, which lasted only four hours, Father Ly was denied access to counsel and precluded from presenting a defense. When Father Ly attempted to speak, a security guard immediately silenced him by putting his hands over his mouth and removing him from the courtroom.

According to your Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Vietnam is a party, all citizens enjoy freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, and the right to form associations. Both your Constitution and the ICCPR also guarantee criminal defendants the presumption of innocence, the right to present a defense, and the right to counsel. Father Ly's arrest, trial, and ongoing detention in this instance call into question Vietnam's commitment to these fundamental principles.

Given these serious flaws in relation to his arrest, trial, and imprisonment, we request that you facilitate Fr. Ly's immediate and unconditional release from prison, and allow him to return to his home and work without restrictions on his right to freedom of expression, association, and movement. In the meantime, we also respectfully request that you provide us with any information your government may have concerning Father Ly's health and welfare.

We thank you in advance for your assistance in this important matter.

Respectfully,

Barbara Boxer
Sam Brownback
Edward M. Kennedy
Patrick J. Leahy
Richard Durbin
Maria Cantwell
Chuck Grassley
Arlen Specter
Thad Cochran
Saxby Chambliss
Jeff Bingaman
Byron L. Dorgan
Mark Udall
Jon Kyl
Mark Begich
Carl Levin
Ron Wyden
Jim Bunning
Tom Udall
Orrin G. Hatch
Barbara A. Mikulski
Benjamin L. Cardin
Mary L. Landrieu
Johnny Isakson
Edward E. Kaufman
Charles E. Schumer
Evan Bayh
Roland W. Burris
Joseph I. Lieberman
Frank R. Lautenberg
Robert F. Bennett
Debbie Stabenow
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Herb Kohl
Mike Johanns
James E. Risch
Sherrod Brown


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