Cyber-dissident Nguyen Dan Que and journalist Nguyen Dinh Huy, who were released from prison on 2 February, are being kept under constant police surveillance, Reporters Without Borders said today, calling for them to be allowed to fully enjoy their freedom. Both spent more than 15 years in prison.
Dinh Huy is being so closely watched that there are even two policeman inside his home in Ho Chi Minh City. All his telephone calls are monitored.
Two plain-clothes are constantly watching Dan Que’s home. When he went out a few days after his release, the authorities immediately telephoned his wife to ask why he had gone out and tell her that he should henceforth warn them whenever he went out.
Cyberdissident Nguyen Dan Que and journalist Nguyen Dinh Huy released
Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release from prison on 2 February of Dr Nguyen Dan Que and journalist Nguyen Dinh Huy, aged 73.
The organisation said it hoped the two would be able to resume a normal life free of police surveillance and harassment. It also pointed out that three other dissidents - Nguyen Vu Binh, Pham Hong Son and Nguyen Khac Toan - were still behind bars simply for having posted articles online critical of the government.
"In less than eight months, the Vietnamese authorities have released four of the seven jailed cyberdissidents as well as the last journalist imprisoned. However, at the same time they brutally cracked down on a section of the online press because it was reflecting popular discontent.
"It is therefore not yet possible to see these releases as a sign of a softening of the regime towards free expression," it said.
Nguyen Dan Que, held in Prison n°5 in Thanh Hoa Province about 200 kilometres south of Hanoi, arrived back home in Ho Chi Minh City the following day while Dinh Huy returned to the same city accompanied by his family.
Dan Que had been arrested at his home on 17 March 2003. A committed free expression campaigner, he had already spent more than 18 years in prison between 1980 and 1998.
Shortly before his imprisonment he had released a statement in which he condemned the lack of press freedom in the country. He was sentenced on 29 July 2004, to 30 months in prison by a court in Ho Chi Minh City. He was denied the right to legal representation.
Dinh Huy was arrested on 17 November 1993, after asking permission to hold a conference on democracy in Ho Chi Minh City. In April 1995, he was sentenced to 15 years for attempting to "overthrow the people’s government". He was imprisoned at Ham Tan camp, around 100 kms north-east of Ho Chi Minh City.
Cyberdissidents Pham Que Duong and Tran Khue were released respectively on 29 and 30 July 2004. Le Chi Quang was freed from jail on 14 June.
Two cyberdissidents and one former journalist remain in prison
Businessman Nguyen Khac Toan, a former army officer, was arrested on 8 January 2002, in a Hanoi cybercafé. He was accused of emailing information to Vietnamese human rights organisations in exile, seen by the government as "reactionary". Found guilty of espionage, he was sentenced, on 20 December 2002, to 12 years in prison and three years under house arrest. For several months he has been refused the right to leave his cell, as punishment for making "insolent" remarks.
Nguyen Vu Binh, former journalist on an official Vietnamese Communist party publication Tap Chi Cong San (Communist Reviews), was arrested on 25 September 2002. He was chiefly accused of posting articles online of a "reactionary nature", in particular an essay entitled, "Reflection on the Sino-Vietnamese border accords" in which he criticised a treaty concluded between China and Vietnam in 1999. He was sentenced on 31 December 2003 to seven years in prison and three years house arrest. The sentence was confirmed on appeal on 5 May 2004.
Pham Hong Son, a doctor and head of a pharmaceutical firm, was imprisoned on 27 March 2002 for having translated and posted online an article headlined, "What is democracy?", taken from web pages on the site of the US embassy in Vietnam.
Previously, he had written several articles promoting democracy and human rights, posted on Vietnamese discussion forums. In June 2003 a people’s court in Hanoi sentenced him to 13 years in prison for "espionage" and three years house arrest. His sentence was reduced on appeal on 26 August 2003, to five years imprisonment and three years house arrest.
He is suffering from a hernia in the groin which could be life-threatening in the absence of an operation. He has not been receiving any treatment and he was transferred in September 2004, to a detention centre far from Hanoi, where his family lives.
Over 15 years ago, Reporters without Borders created its "Sponsorship Programme" and called upon the international media to select and support an imprisoned journalist. More than two hundreds news staffs around the globe are thus sponsoring colleagues by regularly petitioning authorities for their release and by publicising their situations so that their cases will not be forgotten.
Currently, Nguyen Dinh Huy is sponsored by La Manche libre, le Club de la presse de Bordeaux, Le Devoir, Charlie Hebdo, Le Matin, RFI, Verbottenswuriren, Maison de la presse de Liège, Fun Radio (Belgique), El País, RTVE, Europa Press, Grupo Arbol