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AFP : Vietnamese Buddhist dissident jailed for 20 months

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HANOI, March 13, 2004 (AFP) – A dissident Buddhist monk has been sentenced to 20 months in jail in Vietnam for undermining internal security, amid a crackdown on the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam.

Thich Tri Luc, whose secular name is Pham Van Tuong, was jailed on Friday by a court in Ho Chi Minh City. “Tuong distorted the government’s policies on national unity and contacted hostile groups to undermine the government’s internal security and foreign affairs”, the state-owned English daily Vietnam News said. No official Vietnamese source was immediately available for comment. The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) said in a statement the trial lasted less than an hour and that the monk had no lawyer.

Hanoi has recently faced international criticism for stepping up its efforts to curtail the activities of the church, formally banned in 1981 after refusing to come under the ruling Communist Party’s control. Last year, the authorities said Luc, aged 50, had been arrested at the Vietnamese-Cambodian border. But according to IBIB, he was kidnapped and forcibly repatriated to Vietnam in July 2002, two months after fleeing his country, despite being granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Every possible human rights violation has been committed here — religious repression, forced repatriation of a refugee under UN protection, incommunicado detention and now this parody of justice in a kangaroo court, where the accused was denied the minimum right to defend himself,” Vo Van Ai, president of IBIB said in a statement. The monk has already spent more than 19 months in prison.

In October, the UBCV’s patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his deputy Thich Quang Do — Vietnam’s most prominent religious dissidents — were accused of being in possession of state secrets and trying to reorganize the church with the help of outside forces. The pair were placed under unofficial house arrest.

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