Six Vietnamese convicted in case that sparked US concern

Six Vietnamese villagers who US congressmen alleged were tortured, after a dispute over a cemetery, were convicted at a one-day trial.

Hanoi: Six Vietnamese villagers who
United States congressmen alleged were tortured, after a
dispute over a cemetery, were convicted at a one-day trial
today, relatives said.

In a case which also sparked concern from the US
embassy, the villagers were arrested after a clash in May
between residents and a large group of police in Con Dau
Catholic parish, near the central city of Danang, said

The incident occurred when they tried to bury an
82-year-old woman, the residents said.

Four of the accused received nine-month suspended jail
terms but two others were jailed, the family members said.

They said Nguyen Huu Minh was jailed for 12 months and a
woman, Phan Thi Nhan, received a nine-month sentence.

Phan Le Nguyen Nhung, whose husband`s jail term was
suspended, said the six were charged with causing public

"My husband said he was innocent," said the wife of
Minh, who received the heaviest sentence.

The relatives said hundreds of local people, some
shouting in opposition to the trial, gathered at the court
building, where access was limited.

The villagers` US-based relatives have testified about
the incident before a congressional panel.

"The US Congress has started to accumulate numerous
and credible reports of villagers from Con Dau facing
violence, detentions, and police intimidation so that the
local government can build an eco-tourism resort," they wrote
to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Nguyen Minh

The Congressmen called for the immediate release of
the six prisoners.

A US embassy spokesman said the mission was continuing
to monitor the situation and had "expressed concern over use
of force during the Con Dau incident and over reports of harsh
treatment of detainees."

The embassy has urged "all sides" to exercise
restraint, the spokesman said.

Vietnam has denied that any injuries occurred in what
it said was a land dispute which had nothing to do with
religion. It described accounts of mistreatment and detentions
as an attempt to "smear Vietnam".There has been a long-running
series of church-state land disputes in Vietnam but a foreign
diplomat said earlier that this case was different because the
cemetery was not owned by the church itself.