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Catholic World News News Feature

Jailed priest released in Vietnam pardon program February 01, 2005

A Vietnamese Catholic priest jailed for writing a letter to the US Congress will be among those released as part of traditional New Years celebrations.

Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, 58, was charged with undermining national unity and sentenced in 2001 to 15 years in jail plus five years of house arrest. He had contacted Congress, which was then considering a historic trade pact. Father Van Ly's letter urged against the pact with the Communist government, citing lack of religious freedom and human rights abuses.

Last year, Father Van Ly's jail term was cut in half because of "good attitude and conduct" while in prison. Deputy Foreign Minister Le Van Bang told a news conference that Van Ly and other prisoners were being released for "having well reformed themselves." He added, "Some of the prisoners were of interest to foreign governments and we have informed those interested of their release."

This week, Vietnam will grant pardons to 8,428 convicts, including 33 foreigners from the United States, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Malaysia.

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