A partially paralyzed Catholic priest whose release has been sought by US lawmakers is back in a Vietnamese prison after almost a month of hospital treatment, his sister said yesterday.
Nguyen Van Ly had been in Hanoi’s Ministry of Public Security Hospital since Nov. 14 because of high blood pressure that led to a stroke, his sister Nguyen Thi Hieu said.
“He was transferred back to prison yesterday,” she said. “His situation is a bit better now, but his life is not normal yet. We don’t know why they decided to transfer him back to prison, as he still needs help.”
Ly’s transfer came on the same day that Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet held a rare meeting at the Vatican with Pope Benedict XVI, which both sides hailed as a prelude to improved relations.
Global human rights watchdog Amnesty International, in a statement received yesterday, urged the Vatican to raise Ly’s case and call for his release.
“The Vietnamese authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Father Ly into the care of his family so that they can ensure he receives the proper medical care, including hospitalization, that he needs,” the statement said.
Ly’s sister said he is half-paralyzed on the right side, leaving him unable to hold cutlery to eat. He can only walk a few steps with a walking stick, she said.
On Dec. 4 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying Ly had been treated for high blood pressure and was recovering well. It said his family and religious authorities were allowed to visit him in hospital.
Ly, who is in his early 60s, was jailed for eight years in 2007 after a half-day trial in the city of Hue. He was convicted of spreading propaganda against the communist state, in a case that drew condemnation from diplomats, Vietnam watchers and human rights groups.
Prosecutors said Ly was a founding member of the banned “Bloc 8406” pro-democracy coalition, and that he was also a driving force behind the outlawed Vietnam Progression Party.