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Vietnam 16 August 2006

Kiem Street chat room users freed after nine months in detention

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the news of the release of three young people who were arrested at a Kiem Street house in Ho Chi Minh City last October for participating in a pro-democracy chat forum on Pal Talk. It has just emerged that they were freed on 7 July.

“This is the end of a scandalous case in which three young Internet users spent nearly nine months in detention without being tried,” the press freedom organisation said. “We call on the Vietnamese authorities to stop spying on chat forums. We also urge them to release the last two cyber-dissidents still being held in Vietnam, Pham Hong Son and Nguyen Vu Binh.”

Truong Quoc Tuan, his brother Truong Quoc Huy and his fiancée Lisa Pham were arrested at their home at 603 Nguyen Kiem Street on 19 October 2005 and were charged with violating article 19 of the criminal code by inciting the population to “overthrow the government.”

In an interview for the German Press Agency (DPA), Truong Quoc Huy said that he would “continue to criticize the government on their wrongdoings” and that, as soon as he got out of prison, he joined the 8406 Group, a pro-democracy group created last April. The US consulate in Ho Chi Minh City had already helped Lisa Pham, who is a US resident, to return to the United States, he said.

Truong insisted that he never intended to overthrow the government by force. “I only spoke out my thoughts and opinions about corruption, the lack of human rights and free speech,” he told DPA.

He also revealed that the government had been monitoring the “Voice of the People in Vietnam and Abroad” chat forum on Pal Talk, which was created by Vietnamese exiles based in Canada. He said he learned from his interrogators that the authorities had been recording the voice discussions taking place on the forum.

Following the arrest of the three Internet users, Reporters Without Borders visited their family to find out about the circumstances of their detention.

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