Vietnamese Christian Leaders' Final Appeal Delayed

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court has announced a delay in the appeal of two detained Mennonite church leaders convicted in November for “inciting people to obstruct officials from carrying out their duties.” According to U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a defense attorney informed the wife of Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang of the postponement on Jan. 27. The court is yet to announce a new date.

Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang and evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach of the Vietnam Mennonite Church, whose appeals were originally set to be heard today, were two men among the six Mennonites detained in a series of arrests from Mar. 2, 2004 onwards.

Nguyen, who served as the secretary general of the Mennonite Church and as an active member of the Vietnamese Evangelical Fellowship, was sentenced to three years after a half-day trial at the Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Court on Nov. 12 while Pham was sentenced to two years.

Nguyen Thanh Nhan and Nguyen Hieu Nghia, who were also among the “Mennonite Six” that were handed sentences in November’s trial, were released early in December. After reportedly being battered both at the hands of corrections officers and of other prisoners, “one is now partially paralyzed and the other has conditions which may be life threatening,” CSW reported.

Meanwhile, sources say the appeal of Nguyen Van Phuong’s one-year sentence has been denied and the appeal of the one-year sentence of Le Thi Hong Lien, the sole woman among six Mennonite church workers, cannot proceed after she reportedly suffered a mental breakdown because of the treatment she had received in prison.

Last week, the Vietnam Mennonite Church issued a call to prayer to Mennonite bodies and evangelical Christians around the world in support of the two detained Mennonite church leaders.