The release from prison of one of Viet Nam’s most high profile prisoners of conscience is a positive step, but authorities must now free the scores of other peaceful activists behind bars, said Amnesty International today.
Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his pen name Dieu Cay (“peasant’s pipe”), was released from prison yesterday, having served four years of a 12-year prison sentence. Immediately after his release he was taken to the airport and put on a plane, eventually bound for the USA.
A popular blogger on social justice issues, Dieu Cay was charged under the vaguely worded Article 88 of Viet Nam’s Penal Code for “conducting propaganda” against the state. He was sentenced to prison in September 2012 after an unfair trial.
“We’re delighted that Dieu Cay, a courageous voice for human rights in Viet Nam, has been released, but he should never have been imprisoned in the first place. He was a prisoner of conscience, and his only crime was to peacefully express opinions that the Vietnamese authorities didn’t want aired,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“His reportedly deteriorating health and the harsh prison conditions in Viet Nam makes his release even more welcome. But we hope that he has the opportunity to return to his country should he wish to do so.”
“Dieu Cay is far from an isolated case. Viet Nam must now follow up and release the scores of other prisoners of conscience still behind bars. The government must also end its harsh crackdown on freedom of expression, stop targeting peaceful activists and allow civil society a voice. ”
Amnesty International is campaigning for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Viet Nam. In November 2013 the organization published a report, Silenced Voices, detailing the cases of 75 individuals jailed in the country for the peaceful exercise of their human rights.