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Vietnamese priest nominated for Nobel award

Hong Kong (Agencies): Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, a 65-year-old Vietnamese human rights advocate, has been nominated for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, together with the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, patriarch of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, by two members of the United States Congress, Chris Smith and Zoe Lofgren, the Independent Catholic News reports.

Father Nguyen has been a prominent human rights’ defender since the 1970s, campaigning for religious freedom, democracy and freedom of the press. He is a prominent supporter of the Vietnamese democracy movement, Bloc 8406, and his outspoken work has resulted in him spending more than 15 years in prison.

In March 2007, Father Nguyen was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for allegedly “disseminating slanderous and libellous information” harmful to the state. He had been on temporary medical parole for a year and four months when he was re-arrested by Vietnamese authorities in July 2011.

He is partially paralysed as a result of suffering several strokes and has a brain tumour. In September 2010, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for Father Nguyen’s immediate and unconditional release, saying that he had been arbitrarily and illegally detained and denied access to legal counsel by the Vietnamese authorities.

The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do is also a human rights advocate. The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, once the largest Buddhist organisation of southern Vietnam, and its leaders have been subject to ongoing government persecution since 1975.

The outspoken Thích spent 10 years in internal exile and was given a five year prison sentence in 1995 for organising a humanitarian relief mission. Despite these challenges, he says his Church is determined to pursue its movement for human rights.

The winner of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in mid-October.

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