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Cablegate: Pastor Bui Van Ba to Stand Trial

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000045

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

Department for EAP/BCLTV, DRL, IRF

E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PREL PGOV SOCI VM HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: PASTOR BUI VAN BA TO STAND TRIAL

REF: HCMC 000766

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ho Chi Minh City District 11 People's
Court will try Pastor Bui Van Ba on the morning of January 13,
2004. Pastor Ba, of the Full Gospel Assembly, is charged with
assaulting a police officer in the course of his duties. The
charge stems from an August 18, 2003, altercation at an
unregistered house church on Lac Long Quan Street in District 11
(reftel). The Protestant community in HCMC is taking steps to
draw attention to Pastor Ba's trial. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On the morning of August 18, 2003, police entered a
house on Lac Long Quan Street in HCMC's District 11. For at least
18 months prior to the raid, Full Gospel Assembly members used the
location as a place to conduct worship services. Although the
group is an unregistered Protestant sect, local authorities were
aware of the worship services and police had never previously
interfered.

3. (SBU) The catalyst for the raid remains unclear. Official
documents passed to the ConGen describe the police action in
technical terms as an attempt to check the identification
documents of those inside the house. Under Vietnamese law all
occupants of a given address must be registered with the local
authorities and police have the right to enter private residences
to check identification cards against registrations.

4. (U) Pastor Ba's wife, who suffers from a heart condition,
fainted while police checked the identification cards of
approximately 20 individuals gathered for the service. Pastor Ba
and his associates sought to take her to the hospital immediately
but were prevented from leaving. The situation grew heated and
eventually Pastor Ba threw a couple of punches at the police and,
as he told ConGen officers, at least one of the punches connected.
He was subdued, arrested, and taken to the local police station
along with eight other members of his group. Police allowed
another pastor to take Pastor Ba's wife to the hospital, where she
recovered with no apparent lasting ill effects. The detainees,
including Pastor Ba, were released the following day. Pastor Ba
is in essence under house arrest pending the outcome of his trial.

5. (SBU) Court documents passed to ConGen by members of the
city's underground Protestant community indicate Pastor Ba's trial
will take place on January 13, 2004. He faces a charge of
assaulting a police officer in the course of his duties. In
general the description of the incident in the court documents
matches what we have heard from Pastor Ba and others, although the
documents make no mention of religion or the unregistered house
church.

6. (SBU) The Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship, of which Pastor Ba
is General Secretary, has issued a written appeal for members to
pray for Pastor Ba as he faces the upcoming trial. Post
understands a group of local Protestant pastors is circulating a
petition on Pastor Ba's behalf that they plan to send to the
government. Given recent indications of a more activist approach,
there may be additional activities to draw international attention
to this case.

WHITE

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