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Letter to Secretary Clinton

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today led a bipartisan group of Senators in calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take further steps to urge the Vietnamese government to immediately release Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly from prison. Father Ly was temporarily released in March 2010 to seek medical care, but was re-imprisoned this past July. Father Ly's health has been in serious decline since he suffered multiple strokes in prison, and his continued incarceration may further threaten 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, he 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 about the circumstances surrounding Father Ly's detention and his deteriorating health.

In addition to Senator Boxer, the letter is signed by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Scott Brown (R-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Robert Casey (D-PA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The full text of the Senators' letter is below:

August 24, 2011

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

We write to express our deep concern regarding the re-arrest of Father Nguyen Van Ly by the Government of Vietnam and urge you to impress upon the Vietnamese government that it should immediately release him from prison. Father Ly is in poor health and has done nothing but peacefully advocate for the basic rights and freedoms of the Vietnamese people.

As you know, 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 and expression. His case, like many others in Vietnam, illustrates that there is no clear boundary between religious and political freedoms. Father Ly suffered multiple strokes while in prison and was released on humanitarian parole on March 15, 2010 to seek treatment for a brain tumor.

However, on July 25, 2011, the Government of Vietnam returned Father Ly to prison, despite his ailing health and the fact that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found his detention to be in violation of international law. We fear that Father Ly's re-imprisonment may further threaten his life.

While we appreciate that the Department of State issued a statement expressing concern over Father Ly's re-arrest, further action is needed. The Government of Vietnam must be made aware that its continued refusal to permit the peaceful advocacy of basic human rights impedes the progression of U.S.-Vietnam relations. The governments of both Vietnam and the United States have indicated that they seek enhanced relations. Releasing Father Ly would be an important step toward demonstrating that Vietnam is serious about achieving that goal.

We urge you continue to advocate for Father Ly and for all those imprisoned in Vietnam for the peaceful advocacy of human rights.

Thank you for your consideration.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Daniel K. Akaka
United States Senator

Mark Begich
United States Senator

Sherrod Brown
United States Senator

Benjamin L. Cardin
United States Senator

Robert P. Casey Jr.
United States Senator

Thad Cochran
United States Senator

John Cornyn
United States Senator

Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Mike Johanns
United States Senator

Jon Kyl
United States Senator

Mary L. Landrieu
United States Senator

Frank R. Lautenberg
United States Senator

Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senator

Marco Rubio
United States Senator

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