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Cablegate: Police Move Forward On Charging Thai Ha Protestors - Prayer

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHHI #1205 2980142
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 240142Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8651

UNCLAS HANOI 001205

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL KIRF VM
SUBJECT: POLICE MOVE FORWARD ON CHARGING THAI HA PROTESTORS - PRAYER
VIGILS CONTINUE

1. (SBU) Hanoi police have concluded their investigation into eight
individuals who participated in tearing down a small retaining wall
around disputed land near the Thai Ha parish in Hanoi, according to
online reports and Catholic priests at the parish. The police have
recommended to prosecutors that the eight individuals be charged
with the crime of "Causing Public Disorder." Originally, the police
had threatened to charge the individuals with the more significant
crime of "Destroying or Deliberately Damaging Property."

2. (SBU) At this point, the prosecutors will examine the evidence
provided by the police and make a decision as to whether they agree
with the police recommendation. If so, the prosecutors will then
file formal charges with the court against the eight individuals.
Following this, the court would evaluate the charges and decide if
there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial. Catholic
priests at the parish have verified that two parishioners remain in
detention but estimate that even if the case goes to trial that the
eight involved will likely only be sentenced to "non-custodial
reform" and not jail time. Given the fact that the individuals have
been charged with a lesser crime, the priests believe that those
still in detention would likely be released at sentencing.

3. (SBU) Parish priests also confirmed that they continue to
perform daily prayer vigils after evening Mass with attendance
sometimes numbering in the hundreds. However, the priests have
chosen to conduct the prayer vigils in the courtyard outside the
Church and not at the disputed site, which is now a public park.

4. (SBU) Comment: In the most recent round of prayer vigils that
began on August 14 at the disputed property near Thai Ha parish,
thousands of Catholics from northern Vietnam participated for more
than a month. When the prayer vigils restarted, the police
originally threatened to arrest all who participated, including
Catholic priests. It is a relatively positive sign that the police
have ended their investigation by only charging eight individuals
who led the effort to tear down the wall surrounding the property
with the lesser crime of "Causing Public Disorder." END COMMENT.

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