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

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today led a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on the Vietnamese government to refrain from returning Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly to prison when his temporary release expires next week. Father Ly's health has been in serious decline since he suffered two strokes in prison, and a return to confinement may endanger his life.

Father Ly, a Catholic priest and human rights advocate, was arrested on February 18, 2007, at his parish in Hue, Vietnam. Six weeks later, 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. Senator Boxer has repeatedly raised concerns to the government of Vietnam about the circumstances surrounding Father Ly's detention and his deteriorating health. The Senators' letter to the President of Vietnam is below:

March 11, 2011

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

Dear President Triet:

We write to urge you to refrain from returning Father Nguyen Van Ly to prison following the expiration of his "temporary" release on March 15, 2011. Not only would such a move put Father Ly's health in serious jeopardy, but it would violate commitments Vietnam has made under its constitution and international law.

Father Ly, a Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years of house arrest on March 30, 2007 for exercising his rights to freedom of religion, expression, and association. The sentence was handed down after only a four hour trial where authorities denied Father Ly the right to counsel of his choosing and prevented him from presenting a defense--rights that are contained in both your Constitution and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a party.

After Father Ly suffered a series of strokes while serving his sentence in solitary confinement, your Government granted him a one-year suspension of punishment on March 15, 2010. Following his temporary release, Father Ly sought medical treatment, and although his health remains in serious danger, he has not suffered another stroke. We are concerned that if Father Ly is re-imprisoned, his life will once again be in danger.

In light of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's finding that Father Ly's detention was in violation of international law, and because of his continued ill health, we respectfully request that you ensure Father Ly's continued access to medical care by continuing the suspension of his sentence.

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

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Richard Durbin
United States Senator

Ben Cardin
United States Senator

James Risch
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Jon Kyl
United States Senator

Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Frank Lautenberg
United States Senator

Jeff Bingaman
United States Senator

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Thad Cochran
United States Senator

Mark Begich
United States Senator

Mike Johanns
United States Senator


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