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Vietnam 11 June 2007

Cyber-dissident pardoned and freed on eve of president’s visit to United States

Reporters Without Borders today hailed the release of cyber-dissident Nguyen Vu Binh on 9 June under a presidential amnesty as a "great relief" but said it should not be forgotten that he spent nearly five years in prison solely for what he posted online.

"This news should not divert attention from the ongoing crackdown on Vietnamese dissidents, either,” the press freedom organisation said. "Binh’s release on the eve of a visit by President Nguyen Minh Triet was prompted more by a desire to create a good impression on the international community than any real intention to improve the human rights situation in Vietnam."

Arrested on 25 September 2002, Binh was sentenced on 31 December 2003 to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest for posting "reactionary" articles on the Internet and for keeping in touch with "subversive dissidents."

President Triet will begin his visit to the United States on 22 June. US President George W. Bush has voiced "deep concern" about the recent increase in arrests of pro-democracy activists in Vietnam and said such actions would inevitably limit the growth of bilateral relations.

Eight cyber-dissidents are still being held in Vietnam because of articles they posted on the Internet.

18.01.07 - President urged to include ailing cyber-dissident in Lunar New Year amnesty

Reporters Without Borders has written to Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet asking him to include cyber-dissident Nguyen Vu Binh in the list of prisoners who will be amnestied on the Lunar New Year on 17 February. The organisation draws the president’s attention to the fact that Binh’s health has deteriorated rapidly in recent months.

Letter signed by Robert Ménard, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders :

"Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom organisation, would like to ask you to include cyber-dissident Nguyen Vu Binh in the list of prisoners who will be amnestied on the occasion of the Lunar New Year. We believe it is time to show clemency towards this man, who has already spent more than four years in prison just for expressing his views freely online.

We would also like to draw your attention to Binh’s poor state of health. Held in a small cell in Nam Ha camp with ordinary prisoners, he has had very high blood pressure and digestive problems since November and his condition is getting worse by the day. Despite repeated requests by his wife, he has never been examined by a doctor and has not received any appropriate medical treatment. We now fear for his life. His case is very similar to those of Le Chi Quang and Pham Hong Son, whom you agreed to pardon for health reasons.

We think it is appropriate to point out that Vietnam published a white paper on human rights in 2005 in which it undertook to respect freedom of expression and promote unrestricted use of the Internet. By releasing Binh, who has been held for the past four years because of a few articles he posted online, you would show that these words have been followed up by actions."

Binh used to be a journalist with Tap Chi Cong San (The Communist Magazines), an official publication of the Communist Party of Vietnam. He was arrested on 25 September 2002 and was sentenced on 31 December 2003 to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest.

He was accused of links with “subversive dissidents” such as Le Chi Quang and Pham Hong Son and of receiving 4.5 million dongs (230 euros) “from a reactionary organisation based abroad.” The authorities also objected to his participation in an anti-corruption group and his request in 2000 for permission to create a liberal democratic party. He was also accused of posting articles of a “reactionary nature” on the Internet, including an essay entitled “Reflection on the Sino-Vietnamese border accords” in which he criticised a treaty signed by China and Vietnam in 1999.

In prison, Binh has always refused to write a “self-criticism,” that is to say, a document in which he would recognise his guilt and renew his allegiance to the Communist Party of Vietnam.

In this country
20 February - Vietnam
Government frees cyber-dissident while keeping online activities under strict control
19 January - Vietnam
Government announces early release of journalist Nguyen Viet Chien
5 December - Vietnam
Leading blogger’s conviction upheld on appeal
15 October - Vietnam
Newspaper reporter’s two-year sentence deals severe blow to press freedom
10 September - Vietnam
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