07/13/2007, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Bishops deny president’s statement about Fr Nguyễn văn Lý’s trial

Vietnamese president said Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican “agreed with us” about the legal proceedings against the priest. That, said the Conference’s chairman, “does not correspond to the truth.”

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Eda) – Mgr Paul Nguyễn Van Hoa, chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam (CBCV) , formally denied claims made by Vietnamese President Nguyễn Minh Triết that the “Bishops’ Conference and the Holy See” agreed to the trial of Fr Nguyễn văn Lý.

Father Nguyễn văn Lý, 60, was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years house arrest on March 30  for his role as a founder of ‘Block 8406,’ a pro-democracy movement that started in April 2006 that now has up to 2,000 members, and for his support of illegal groups like the Progressive Party of Vietnam.

The denial by the CBCV chairman, reported in Églises d’Asie, came after the Tuổi Trẻ newspaper quoted Vietnam’s president from an interviewed he gave on June 23 to CNN during his trip to the United States. The specific remarks were not found however in CNN’s official transcript.

The whole controversy stems instead from a photo (reproduced here) that shows an agent preventing Fr Nguyễn văn Lý from speaking at his trial. Some journalists showed the photo to President Nguyễn who said that the priest had made outrageous statements to the court, and that the agent was solely responsible for his actions and would be punished. The matter was eventually mentioned by US House Speaker  Nancy Pelosi, to whom the Vietnamese president is quoted in the paper as saying: “If we had violated religious freedom, the Bishops’ Conference would have spoken out against it . . . . In fact, they agreed with us.”

“President Nguyễn Minh Triết’s answer does not correspond to the truth,” said Mgr Paul Nguyễn Van Hoa in a terse letter to the president dated July 7.

The letter, which ends wishing the president good health, was signed on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, and published by the Viet Catholic Network.

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