Vietnamese Catholic lawyer on hunger strike loses appeal

An appeals court in Hanoi, Vietnam, has upheld the sentence of a jailed Catholic lawyer, who is on a hunger strike to get access to Communion and Confession.

The People’s Supreme Court upheld the jail term of 30 months for lawyer and dissident Joseph Le Quoc Quan for charges of tax evasion.

His firm was also fined 1.29 billion dong (approximately US $61,000), local sources said.

Church sources stated that only Quan’s mother and wife were allowed to be at the four-hour appeal trial, while hundreds of Quan supporters stood outside in the cold and rain.

Supporters had attended a special Mass at Redemptorist-run Thai Ha Church and then marched to the court.

Security officials prevented people from entering the court by erecting barriers on streets leading to it. Police also took photos and video of supporters.

Quan started his hunger strike on February 2 to demand jail authorities give him access to religious books and to a priest for Confession and Communion.

His hunger strike is also a way to protest against the legal process.

The blogger and human rights lawyer is well-known for taking part in pro-democracy activities and giving legal support to Catholics petitioning the government to return church properties.

Quan’s firm also provided legal aid to factory workers and poor people.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” by the decision to uphold the conviction, which it called inconsistent with Vietnam’s international commitments to freedom of expression.

“The use of tax laws by Vietnamese authorities to imprison government critics for peacefully expressing their political views is disturbing,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Quan’s arrest in 2012 came nine days after the BBC published his article criticising the Vietnamese constitution.


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