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Vietnam 6 September 2006

US national among three arrested cyberdissidents

Reporters Without Borders wrote on 6 September 2006, to the US, French and Finnish ambassadors in Hanoi urging them to intervene on behalf of three cyberdissidents, known under the pen-names Nam Tran, Nguyen Hoang Long and Huynh Viet Lang, held in custody in Vietnam since mid-August. Finland is currently president of the EU.

The organisation also urged Senator Gérard Miquel, due to head a French parliamentary mission to Vietnam next week, to raise the case in talks with Vietnamese officials. Nam Tran, whose real name is Cong Thanh Do, is an American citizen.

Extract from the letter sent to the diplomats

"Five people are currently imprisoned in Vietnam for having expressed democratic views on the Internet. Contrary to the claims of the Vietnamese authorities, none of them is a terrorist, criminal or spy. These men have been punished for using the Internet to publicly express their disagreement with the political line of the sole party. They are non-violent democrats.

Vietnam will shortly become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and it has also been chosen to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November. We consider that a normalisation of diplomatic relations with this country and its integration into the world economy should be linked to concrete progress in the field of human rights.

We certainly welcomed the release on 30 August of the cyberdissident Pham Hong Son, an encouraging gesture on the part of the new Vietnamese leaders. Nevertheless they continue to thwart free expression in their country and to imprison Internet-users expressing criticism.

We therefore ask you to strongly state your support for the Vietnamese cyberdissidents and your commitment to free expression on the Internet."

Background:

Cong Thanh Do, a 47-year-old engineer living in San José, California, wrote for numerous foreign-based sites. He was arrested while on a family visit to Phan Thiet, southern Vietnam on 14 August. His wife, who was travelling with him, was arrested at the same time but was released a few hours later and have since returned to the United States. According to his family, Cong Thanh Do is accused of conspiring to launch a terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Ho Chi Minh-City, a bizarre accusation which does not appear to be based on any real facts. He appears to have really been detained for what he has posted online, and for his supposed membership of an illegal political organisation in the country, the foreign-based People’s Democratic Party of Vietnam. His arrest was confirmed by US diplomats. He was held in solitary confinement until he was visited by a diplomat from the US Consulate on September the 1st. Vietnamese lawyer Nguyen Van Dai has agreed to represent the cyberdissident, but the Vietnamese authorities are apparently opposed to this. According to his daughter, Bien Dobui, Cong Thanh Do began a hunger strike on 1st September.

Nguyen Hoang Long and Huynh Viet Lang, Vietnamese residents and citizens, were reportedly arrested in Ho Chi Minh-City on around 14 August for the same reasons.


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