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Live ammunition used to disperse rally to free two parishioners

HANOI (AsiaNews): Police used live ammunition to attack hundreds of people from My Yen parish, Nghe An province, Vietnam, on August 28, demanding that two parishioners, Ngo Van Khoi and Nguyen Van Hai, be freed from detention.

The two parishioners were arrested in June and have been held ever since without being charged.

According to eyewitness accounts, the attack was one of the most violent and bloody acts of repression carried out by the authorities that they had seen in recent years.

They said that police threw grenades and fired live ammunition.

AsiaNews reported that an unknown number of people ended up in hospital for medical treatment with some, who were in a serious condition, being rushed to better facilities in Hanoi.

Police used batons and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, arresting an unspecified number of demonstrators.

State-controlled TV reported that about 300 people went to the Nghi Phuong village People’s Committee building in Nghi Loc district early on the morning of August 28, saying they would not budge until the two were released.

A day earlier, about 1,000 people, some of them carrying large banners, had campaigned for the pair’s release.

Tensions were high because for two days, the authorities had announced the release of the two men, but in fact, had kept them in detention.

“They fired 15 shots in front of the My Yen church. They beat some parishioners with electric batons,” an eyewitness told Radio Free Asia.

A website linked to the Vietnamese Redemptorists posted pictures of dozens of people receiving treatment for serious injuries to the head, hand, stomach and neck.

Online reports say up to 3,000 police officers and soldiers may have been mobilised in the crackdown. According to some eyewitnesses, police tried to stop people from getting treatment.

Ngo and Nguyen were detained last June by men belonging to security agencies. They have been held without a formal indictment since then.

Their families have reported that they are in prison for disturbing public order, but no specific incident was mentioned that would justify their detention.

In Vietnam, the authorities continue a campaign of repression against bloggers, rights advocates and dissidents seeking religious freedom, respect for civil rights and the end of one-party hegemony, which is now the object of a petition.

This year alone, more than 40 advocates have been picked up and charged with crimes against the state, a charge which critics describe as too generic and vague for human rights groups.

The Catholic Church has also been forced to submit to limits and restrictions. Catholic people have also been the victims of persecution.

 

In January, a local court sentenced 14 people to prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, a decision criticised forcefully by advocates and human rights groups.

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