Father Nguyen Van Ly (63), a Vietnamese believer who has spent more than 15 years in prison, has been temporarily released from detention on medical grounds. Father Van Ly suffered his third stroke in November 2009 and has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour. His right leg and arm are partially paralyzed, making it difficult for him to eat or write. He was sent to a church-run home on March 15 for one year of medical treatment, after which he is expected to be returned to prison.
Father Van Ly, who refuses to accept the label of criminal pinned on him by authorities, has said of his temporary release: “I’m not satisfied with what they call the temporary suspension of my sentence because if I accept the term ‘temporary suspension,' it suggests that I accept the sentence they gave me. I don’t accept even a ‘permanent suspension’ because this also means I accept the sentence."
Father Van Ly has long been an outspoken opponent of the oppressive communist government in Vietnam. Since the 1970s he has campaigned for religious freedom, democracy, and freedom for the media.
First ordained in 1974, Father Van Ly was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in December 1983 for allegedly undermining national unity and causing public disorder. In 2001, he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for disseminating anti-government propaganda. He was released from prison in February 2005 but remained under house arrest in the Hue archbishop’s residence. He was arrested again on February 18, 2007, and sentenced to eight years in March of that year for anti-government activities after he reportedly helped organize a pro-democracy party.