Vietnam releases 2 prominent dissidents

Published April 14, 2011

| Associated Press

Vietnamese authorities have released two prominent pro-democracy activists who were taken into custody last week while appearing outside a fellow dissident's trial.

An official at Hanoi's Temporary Detention No. 1, who declined to give her name citing policy, said Thursday that Le Quoc Quan and Pham Hong Son were freed Wednesday night. She declined to give further details.

They were taken into police custody April 4 after appearing outside a Hanoi courthouse in support of dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, who was being tried for spreading propaganda against the state.

The government has said the two were detained for allegedly causing public disorder.

In an interview with U.S.-based Radio Free Asia after his release, Son said he protested the decision to detain him, search his house and confiscate his belongings because "these decisions were illegal, absurd and perverse."

Son said police questioned him and Quan about causing public disorder, a charge they denied. He said they had been released without charge.

Son, who trained as a medical doctor, gained international attention in 2002 when he was arrested after translating and posting a document online from the U.S. State Department's website titled, "What is Democracy?" He was sentenced on charges of spying and plotting against the government with Vietnamese abroad, and was released in 2006.

Quan is a lawyer and blogger who was detained for three months in 2007 after returning from a fellowship at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C.

The United States and international human rights groups had been urging Hanoi to release the two.

The dissident they were supporting, Vu, was convicted and sentenced at his one-day trial last week to seven years in jail and three years under house arrest.

The Communist Party does not tolerate any challenge to its rule, but the government maintains that only lawbreakers are jailed.

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