WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2003�Vietnamese authorities have released a leader of a banned Buddhist group after holding him for two days but sentenced another, higher-ranking leader of the same group to two years� house arrest, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Ven. Thich Vien Dinh told relatives he could be rearrested "at any time" following his release late Saturday to his Giac Hoa Pagoda in Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City, according to his California-based brothers.

"The police didn't tell him whether or not he is free," Truman Nhu, one of Vien Dinh�s three brothers in the United States, told RFA�s Vietnamese service. "He sounded very weak and is worried about his safety."

"'I can be re-arrested anytime, and [there is] nothing that I can do,'" Nhu quoted him as saying.

A Buddhist monk and the head of the Giac Hoa Temple, Vien Dinh had recently been elevated to a senior administrative post in the banned United Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBVC).

Separately, sources from Vietnam said a court in Ho Chi Minh City had on Saturday sentenced a more senior UBCV leader, Thich Tue Sy, to two years� house arrest.

Tue Sy holds the number three position in the UBCV. Security police returned him late Saturday to his Gia Lam Temple, also in Ho Chi Minh City.

Both were among a group of dissident monks traveling from Binh Dinh to Ho Chi Minh City on Oct. 8. After Binh Dinh, the group was permitted to go on and spend the night in Khanh Hoa Province.

On Oct. 9, the group left Khanh Hoa Province for Ho Chi Minh City and was stopped again for four hours, this time by Khanh Hoa's local police force. Police then escorted members of the group home, taking Vien Dinh to Giac Hoa Temple for only 15 minutes to pack.

Security police are keeping the others confined to their pagodas. They include UBCV patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his deputy Thich Quang Do, whom the government has now accused of compromising state secrets.

The 76-year-old Do, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was sent to his monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, while Quang, 86, returned to Binh Dinh province, 650 kms (400 miles) north of Ho Chi Minh City, the Vietnamese foreign ministry said.

Hanoi outlawed the UBCV in 1981 because it refused to become part of the state-sanctioned Buddhist church.


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