Vietnam Sentences Pastor to 12 Years in Prison for Wanting Religious Freedom Rights

by Anugrah Kumar |

(PHOTO: REUTERS/KHAM)Catholics hold the holy cross while attending a mass as part of a three-day conclusion to the Holy Year celebrations at the La Vang Basilica, in Vietnam's central Quang Tri province January 5, 2011.

A court in Vietnam has sentenced six people, including a Christian human rights lawyer and a Protestant pastor, to between seven and 15 years in prison for "anti-state" activities, according to a report.

The Christian lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, who has provided legal advice and representation to victims of human rights abuses including religious minorities across Vietnam, received the longest sentence of 15 years in prison and a further five years under house arrest, the U.K.-based group Christian Solidarity Worldwide said in a statement.

Pastor and activist Nguyen Trung Ton, along with legal expert Nguyen Bac Truyen, were charged with "carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the government." Pastor Trung Ton has advocated for the right to freedom of religion or belief and spoken out against social injustices.

Ton and Truyen were sentenced to 12 years and 11 years in prison, respectively.

After the trial, police forcibly took away supporters of the convicts, CSW said.

All the convicts will have a chance to appeal the sentences.

CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas "strongly condemned" the sentences.

They have "peacefully defended the rights of others in line with international human rights treaties to which Vietnam is a party," he said. "The accusations against them are an attempt to silence those calling for a just and fair society, and these unjust and lengthy sentences are a grim reflection of the direction the Vietnamese government is taking and the deteriorating human rights situation in the country."

Read more about religious freedom on The Christian Post.