Reporters Without Borders urged the EU Commissioner for External Relations and the US Secretary of State to press for cyberdissident Pham Hong Son, about to start a fourth year in jail, to be included in an forthcoming amnesty announced by the Vietnamese authorities.
"The Vietnamese government, which has recently released several cyberdissidents, appears prepared to make some concessions in the human rights field. This would therefore seem to be an opportune moment to secure the release of the cyberdissident," the worldwide press freedom organisation wrote.
The letter was sent on 24 March 2005 to Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations, and Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State.
According to Agence France-Presse, deputy minister for the police, General Le The Tiem, said the government was going to "amnesty prisoners detained for harming national security". The next amnesty will be on 30 April 2005, the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.
Pham Hong Son, a doctor and head of a pharmaceutical firm, has been in prison since 27 March 2002 for translating and posting an article on the Internet headlined, "What is democracy?", which he downloaded from the website of the US embassy in Vietnam.
Previously, he posted several pro-democracy and human rights articles on Vietnamese discussion forums. He was sentenced, on 18 June 2003, to 13 years in prison for "espionage" and to three years house arrest under the supervision of the Hanoi people’s court. On 26 August 2003, his sentence was reduced on appeal to five years in prison and three years house arrest.
Four cyberdissidents and one journalist were released in June 2004. Apart from Pham Hong Son, two cyberdissidents, Nguyen Khac Toan and Nguyen Vu Binh, remain in prison.