Posted by: becketfund | December 15, 2008

Vietnam: Court Convicts Catholics in Land Dispute

HANOI – A Vietnamese court convicted eight Catholics on December 7 on charges of disturbing public order and damaging property during a series of prayer vigils to reclaim confiscated church land, the AP reported on December 8. One defendant received a warning while the others were given suspended sentences ranging from 12 to 15 months. While they decried the verdicts, Catholics were relieved by the light sentences as the defendants could have received up to seven years in prison. The defendants were arrested during a series of prayer vigils held to demand the return of the land near the Thai Ha church. Hundreds of Catholics gathered at the site for several weeks. They knocked down a section of the wall surrounding the land, set up an altar and a statue of the Virgin Mary on the site and prayed for its return. Hanoi authorities say the Thai Ha church and its surrounding land belong to the city, signed over to the government by a former parish priest in 1962.

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