Vietnam to free more than 17,000 prisoners in annual National Day amnesty

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's president has ordered more than 17,000 prisoners freed as part of the country's annual National Day amnesty, officials said Saturday.

Twenty of those to be released have been charged with national security crimes, but no high-profile pro-democracy dissidents were included. Several were ethnic minorities from the restive Central Highlands bordering Cambodia.

Vietnam has been criticized by the United States and European Union for jailing political and religious dissidents. The Communist county does not tolerate any form of protest and often uses national security laws to convict those deemed a threat.

Of the 17,210 inmates being freed, 37 are foreigners from a number of countries, including France, the United States and Canada. The release will begin Sunday to commemorate National Day on Sept. 2.