Court Upholds Sentences of Vietnam Church Leaders

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - The prison sentences of two members of Vietnam’s Mennonite Church were upheld by a superior court yesterday, while more than 200 persons gathered in the street outside the court to demonstrate their support for the Mennonite leaders, according to reports released today.

Leaders of the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship and the Mennonite church gathered Tuesday, Apr. 12 to show their support for Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and Evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach, who were sentenced along with four others by the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court on Nov. 12 after being convicted of the crime of opposing persons carrying out official duties. Quang was given a 3-year term and Thach a 2-year term.

Though Vietnamese law calls for an appeal hearing to be announced at least fifteen days before the court appearance, attorney Nguyen Van Dai, who represented Quang and Thach, was not authorized to represent Quang until Apr. 1. Dai met with Quang in Ho Chi Minh City's Chi Hoa prison on Friday, Apr. 8.

According to the Mennonite World Conference (MWC), which released news of yesterday decision earlier today, the attorney said that the two men had not yet been informed about the date of the hearing.

When asked by a reporter about the health and morale of Quang, the attorney replied that Quang was "in good health and in good spirits."

Dai said Quang was prepared to accept any verdict. According to Dai, Quang said: "I am content until I am released. I am a pastor. I have faith. God will take care of me."

In addition to Quang and Thach, four other Mennonite leaders were sentenced to prison in November for the same incident. While three men have completed their terms and have been released, Le Thi Hong Lien, the sole woman, is reportedly suffering from severe mental illness and has been transferred to a mental hospital.

Christian persecution watchdog groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, Compass Direct, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide have been closely monitoring the situation of Vietnam’s “Mennonite Six.”