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France/Vietnam 12 December 2007

French journalist and activist freed after being held for 25 days

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the release today of French journalist and activist Nguyen Thi Thanh Van after 25 days in detention. The French authorities confirmed that she has left Vietnam. She is due to arrive at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport at 10:35 a.m. tomorrow.

Nine journalists and cyber-dissidents are still imprisoned in Vietnam.

Paris urged to try harder to get French journalist freed, while former French minister is among hundreds who sign petition

Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call for the release of French journalist and activist Nguyen Thi Thanh Van after the Vietnamese authorities yesterday freed three US citizens who, like her, had been accused of "terrorism", a charge refuted by the US ambassador to Vietnam.

"The release of the US dissident of Vietnamese origin, Leon Truong, is good news that allows us to hope that Nguyen Thi Thanh Van will also soon be freed," the Thanh Van family, their lawyer, Serge Lewisch, and Reporters Without Borders said in a joint statement. "It is surprising that she is still being held as they were arrested together on the same charges. We urge the French government to take action to ensure that she is freed as quickly as possible."

Former French government minister Françoise Hostalier, a parliamentary representative of Nord department, is among those who have signed a petition issued by the Thanh Van support committee. The signatories include many leading Vietnamese dissidents such as Catholic priests Chan Tin and Phan Van Loi, and intellectuals Do Nam Hai, Nguyen Chinh Ket and Bui Tin. The hundreds of French signatories include some residents of L’Haÿ-Les-Roses, where Thanh Van lives.

Truong, who was put on a flight back to the United States after his release yesterday, was arrested at the same time as Thanh Van and, like her, accused of "terrorism" because of his support for the unrecognised opposition party Viet Tan. An American couple accused of supporting their so-called terrorist plot by bringing a firearm from the United States were also freed yesterday and allowed to fly home. A fourth American, Nguyen Quoc Quan, is still held, however.

Several hours before their release, the US ambassador to Vietnam, Michael Michalak, told the press his embassy had still not received any formal notification of the charges against them. If they were being held for peacefully expressing their political opinions, the United States protested vigorously and demanded their immediate release, Michalak said.

The French authorities confirmed that consular officials have visited Thanh Van for the second time in detention but they gave no details. On 30 November, Thanh Van was shown on VTV4, a Vietnamese TV station targeted at overseas viewers. She was seen being forced to simulate clandestine activity, including the transport of leaflets.


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