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Writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy released from prison, exiled to United States

(PEN American Center/IFEX) - New York City, July 1, 2011 - PEN American Center today welcomed news that jailed Vietnamese writer and PEN Honorary Member Tran Khai Thanh Thuy was released from a prison in Hanoi last week, and has arrived safely in the United States. Thanh Thuy was joined by her 13-year-old daughter, Do An Khue.

On June 22, Thanh Thuy, who was serving a three-year sentence on a trumped-up assault charge, was abruptly released from the Hanoi prison camp where she was incarcerated, taken to Hanoi International Airport, and placed on a plane that would fly her into exile in the United States. She was force to leave behind almost all of her personal items at the prison, including poetry written in detention, and was permitted less than 20 minutes to say good-bye to her husband, who remains in Hanoi. Thanh Thuy and her daughter arrived in San Francisco on Friday, June 24.

"We are enormously relieved that Thanh Thuy is free, and extremely grateful to all who were part of the international campaign to win her release," said Larry Siems, director of Freedom to Write and International programs at PEN American Center. "That she has effectively been banished from Vietnam of course remains a concern, as does the continuing detention of many other writers in that country, in violation of their right to freedom of expression. We hope this is just a first step in a larger movement toward full compliance with international human rights norms in Vietnam."

Tran Khai Thanh Thuy, aged 50, is a renowned novelist, poet, essayist, and editor of the underground Vietnamese democracy journal To Quoc (Fatherland) Review, and a member of the pro-democracy group Bloc 8406. She was first imprisoned in October 2009 and accused of assault after she and her husband were accosted by a group of men suspected of being plainclothes police. Thanh Thuy was repeatedly assaulted by authorities and inmates at the behest of prison officials, and her health declined rapidly during her incarceration. She suffers from diabetes.

Winning Thanh Thuy's release was a major organizational priority for PEN, as well as for a group of students at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island that works closely with PEN on targeted cases. For the past year, the students conducted high level advocacy and lobbying efforts on Thanh Thuy's behalf and used social networking to gather grassroots support for the imprisoned writer.

"Tran's release was definitely an inspiration for the students working on her case," said Roger Williams student Melanie Puckett. . "Knowing that we, such a small group of students, contributed to such a pivotal moment in global communication is truly humbling. It has inspired me to look toward and work on other cases, hoping that there might be similar results."

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