HomeNewsDissident Vietnamese priest Nguyen Van Ly recovering after heart attack

Dissident Vietnamese priest Nguyen Van Ly recovering after heart attack

Dissident Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, who spent over 15 years in prison fighting for religious freedom, democracy, and human rights in Vietnam, has suffered a heart attack.

Father Ly’s nephew and fellow Catholic priest Nguyen Van Viet told Radio Free Asia (RFA) his 73-year-old uncle suffered a heart attack on Feb. 26 and remains at his home in Hue.  

“He is recovering now, and he can eat food, but his health is not good,” Father Viet, who resides in the U.S. state of Florida, told RFA. 

Despite his condition, Father Viet said his uncle continues to write appeals each week, calling on the people of Vietnam to resist infringements on the country’s political and territorial sovereignty by Beijing.

China has long encroached on Vietnam’s sovereignty in the South China Sea, prompting Vietnam to engage in measures that some experts say could lead to a trade war. Some within the country, however, feel their government isn’t doing enough to put a halt to Chinese expansionism. 

Father Ly, who was first imprisoned in 1977 for his dissident activities, would become one of the longest serving prisoners of conscience in the country. He was released after a year and persisted in his conducting religious activities despite being prohibited from doing so. 

Father Ly would later be imprisoned for nine years, from May 1983 to July 1992, for “opposing the revolution and destroying the people’s unity.”

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“Father Ly told me that it is his responsibility to do this to help save the country from the communists, and he said he will do this for the rest of his life,” Father Viet said. 

In October 2001, Father Ly received another 15 years in prison for his activities in defense of free speech, although that sentence would later be commuted. In 2004 Father Ly was placed under house arrest at the Hue city Archdiocese in central Vietnam.

In 2006, Father Ly joined the dissident writers group Bloc 8406, which called for democracy in Vietnam and advocated for free speech. He also helped set up the Vietnam Progressive Party, which led to him being arrested once more.

During a show trial on March 30, 2007, Father Ly was muzzled by a guard in the court room after yelling anti-communist slogans, further making him an icon for free speech advocates. He was ultimately sentenced to eight more years in prison.

He would suffer a stroke in 2009, and the following year was briefly released to receive treatment for a brain tumor. After being placed under house arrest, Father Ly would later be returned to prison in July 2011, prompting the U.S. and others to ratchet up pressure for his release. 

Days before an official state visit by former U.S. President Barack Obama in May 2016, Father Ly was set free.

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