|Born on August 31st, 1947, in Quang Tri province (central Vietnam), Father Ly was ordained in 1974 and once served as secretary to Archbishop Nguyen Kim Dien.
A prominent Vietnamese dissident, he was involved in many pro-democracy movements and spent 15 years in prison for peacefully criticizing government policies on religion and advocating for greater respect for human rights since the late 1970's.
Amnesty International has adopted Nguyen Van Ly in December, 1983, as a Prisoner of conscience. In November, 2000, Nguyen Van Ly gained international attention, when members of the Committee for Religious Freedom visited him in his village, during U.S. President Clinton's visit to Vietnam but he was sentenced again in October 2001 to 15 years in prison for activities linked to the defense of free speech. The sentence was later reduced several times and he was finally released in February 2004.
Most recently, his support for the Bloc 8406 manifesto has led to his being sentenced for an additional eight years in prison on March 30, 2007. He was gagged in court and prevented from speaking in his defense. He is presently serving his sentence in jail despite a recent illness.
Even the Czech Republic's first post-communist president, Vaclav Havel, has backed a call by other former communist-era dissidents for the release of Fr. Nguyen Van Ly, the pro-democracy priest.