Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release today of cyber-dissident Nguyen Khac Toan after four years in prison, but condemned the fact that he will remain under a form of house arrest. He was given an amnesty to mark the Lunar New Year, which starts on 29 January.
Arrested in January 2002, Toan was convicted of spying by a Hanoi people’s tribunal the following December and was sentenced to 12 years in prison followed by three years of house arrest.
A former officer in the Vietnamese army, he was alleged to have sent information by e-mail to human rights organisations run by Vietnamese exiles that are considered “reactionary” by the government.
Two other cyber-dissidents, Pham Hong Son, a doctor, and Nguyen Vu Binh, a writer and former journalist, are still imprisoned in Vietnam for expressing pro-democracy views on the Internet. Son’s state of health is very worrying.
Reporters Without Borders is still without word of two young Internet users, Truong Quoc Tuan and Truong Quoc Huy, and the fiancee of one of them, Lisa Pham, who were arrested at their home on Nguyen Kiem Street in Ho Chi Minh City on 19 October.
They were accused under article 19 of the criminal code of inciting the population to “overthrow the government.” But it seems the real reason for their arrest was their participation in a chat room about democracy on the Pal Talk (paltalk.com) website. Reporters Without Borders asked the Vietnamese authorities on 8 December to be told why they are being held, but the request received no response.
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