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Lawyered over

"Lawyered over" Continued...

Issue: "Is Romney rolling?," May 19, 2007

But the State Department demands such distinctions in order to pinpoint religious freedom abuses, and so diplomats must ask: Is everyone of a particular religion being harassed or is it just this particular person? And if so, what is this person doing?

Vietnam's religious-freedom record means it no longer meets the definition of a "country of particular concern," where there are "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom," according to State Department guidelines. The country is improving by allowing clergy training, harassing religious followers less, and allowing groups to register, even as human rights overall deteriorate.

Sixty-year-old Reverend Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest, is another Hanoi headache. He has spent most of the last 24 years in prison, and last year he joined a new dissident group called "Bloc 8406"-named for the April 8, 2006 date it formed. After a three to four hour trial in March, the judge handed down an eight-year sentence. On hearing this, Ly, weakened from a hunger strike, shouted, "Down with the Communist Party of Vietnam!" A plainclothes officer clapped a hand over Ly's mouth, silencing him.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Dai's wife, Vu Minh Khanh, is also under duress. Compass Direct news service reports that her phone services have been cut, and police are inciting neighbors against her. In April after her husband's arrest, U.S. ambassador Michael Marine invited her and other dissidents' wives to his home for tea. She was never allowed to leave home, while police manhandled two others. If Vietnam is reforming its ways, it might be a long time before activists like Nguyen get to see it.

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