Vietnamese Court Releases Mekong Delta Land Rights Activist

Bystanders gather outside the sealed-off court area in Vietnam's southern Ben Tre province, May 30, 2011.
Radio New Horizon-Viet Tan

Vietnamese authorities released a land activist from prison on Monday, where he was serving a five-year sentence for attempting to overthrow the government.

Duong Kim Khai, pastor of a Mennonite church offshoot known as the Cow Shed Church, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that despite his release, he has no home to return to.

After he was released at 6 a.m., police drove him to the station in the Binh Thanh district of Ho Chi Minh City, he said.

“An official called ward 27 where my household is registered, but because I did not have a house right there anymore, the police in ward 27 would not allow me to stay there,” he said. “I still have five years of house probation, but no place to live. They did not accept that I have no place to reside and that I do not have a house.”

Khai had helped land rights petitioners from the Mekong Delta file complaints with local, provincial, and national officials after their land was seized by local authorities and sold to developers.

He was arrested in August 2010 and convicted along with six other land rights activists of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” by the Ben Tre People’s Court in south Vietnam in May 2011.

Khai received a sentence of six years in prison and five years of probation.

Although the Vietnamese government recognizes the Mennonite Church, it did not recognize Khai’s unsanctioned Christian house church, which had about 10,000 members.

After officials had seized his house of worship, he moved his congregation to the cattle barn of one of his supporters in Ho Chi Minh City.

In August 2011, Khai’s sentence was reduced by a year at an appeals trial in southern Ben Tre province.

Supporters and members of his church were prohibited from entering the courthouse, which was surrounded by a heavy police presence during the trial.

Khai told RFA he refused to admit to charges that he tried “to overthrow the government of the people” instead of “overthrow the government of the Communist Party.”

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by LaLynh Ngo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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