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CYBER-DISSIDENT FREED BEFORE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO U.S.

Vietnam has released one of its best known cyber-dissidents from prison under a presidential amnesty, two weeks before its president visits the United States, reports Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF).

Nguyen Vu Binh, who is in poor health, was pardoned and freed on 9 June after serving nearly five years for spying. In late 2003, he was convicted of posting "reactionary" articles on the Internet and for keeping in touch with "subversive dissidents." He was sentenced to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest.

President Nguyen Minh Triet's official visit on 22 June to the U.S. is the first by a Vietnamese president, and comes soon after Washington voicing "deep concern" about the arrest and jailing of a number of dissidents in Vietnam. After President Triet was formally invited to Washington, Vietnam's Vice-Foreign Minister announced that Hanoi would release three dissidents before the president's trip.

RSF says the timing of Binh's release "was prompted more by a desire to create a good impression on the international community than any real intention to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam."

In recent months, Vietnam has arrested several dissidents, including Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, who received an eight-year prison sentence in March. According to RSF, eight cyber-dissidents are still being held.

Visit these links:
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=20455
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/38xkh2
- "IFEX Communiqué" story on recent jailing of dissidents: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/83388
(12 June 2007)

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