Apr 28, 2005

Montagnards Prisoners to be Released

Vietnam will free 7,751 prisoners, including 8 Montagnards to mark the 30th anniversary this weekend of the end of the Vietnam War
Untitled Document Vietnam will free 7,751 prisoners, including political prisoners and 19 foreigners, to mark the 30th anniversary this weekend of the end of the Vietnam War, the police have announced.

President Tran Duc Luong had ordered the amnesty to mark the anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the former capital of the US-backed South Vietnamese regime, to communist forces on April 30, 1975, police vice minister Le The Tiem said.

Among those to be freed by the communist state were political prisoner Pham Minh Tri, jailed for "propaganda against the Vietnamese state and sabotage of national unity", Tiem said.

Also to be freed were Dinh Van Be, jailed for "treachery", and Ama Duy, who was imprisoned for "organising illegal departures" of Vietnamese abroad.

Tiem gave no details of the cases or when the prisoners would be freed.

Another 13 people behind bars for "public disorder" would also walk free, including eight members of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands where thousands of mainly Christian Montagnards staged protests last year against the confiscation of their ancestral lands and religious persecution.

The protests provoked a brutal response.

The foreigners to be released include six Chinese, four Laotians, three Cambodians, two Canadians, two Australians, a Netherlands national and an American, Tiem said.

He did not give their names or the nature of accusations against them.

A European diplomat, citing government sources, said that Vietnam would release six political prisoners, including the Reverend Pham Ngoc Lien, 64, a member of a Christian congregation from the Central Highlands.

It was unclear whether the six mentioned by the diplomat were part of the number Tiem announced Wednesday.

In late January the state gave amnesty to 8,325 prisoners to mark the new year starting on February 8, including six who had been jailed for "violating national security".

The six included notable Catholic priest Father Nguyen Van Ly and political dissident Nguyen Dan Que.

Critics have long said Vietnam must do a lot more than occasional prisoner releases to shore up religious and political freedoms.

Human rights groups say released prisoners are rarely allowed to live without fear of further intimidation.

The United States has labelled Vietnam among the world's worst offenders in regards to religious freedoms.

Source: The Courier Mail