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Vietnam granting amnesty to more than 5,000 prisoners

[JURIST] Vietnamese Vice Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem said Monday that President Nguyen Minh Triet will grant amnesty to more than 5,000 prisoners on Wednesday in honor of National Day. Catholic priest Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly [AI backgrounder], who was sentenced to eight years in prison [JURIST report] for anti-government activities in Vietnam in 2007, will not be granted amnesty. In July, a group of US senators sent a letter [press release] to Triet urging Ly's release. Tiem indicated that amnesty was reserved for prisoners who had shown genuine rehabilitation and that Ly had been granted amnesty before and had committed new violations [AFP report] since then. Ly was accused of plotting to join his Vietnam Progression Party [party website] with foreign activists. During his trial, Ly shouted slogans against the Communist Party of Vietnam [party website]. Ly also publicly acknowledged that he did produce political materials, but maintained that his actions were not criminal and that he would "continue to fight for democratic values" in Vietnam. Ly, who spent 10 years in prison for his political activism, was previously granted amnesty in early 2005.

Restrictions on expression have become a recurring issue in Vietnam. In June, pro-democracy lawyer Le Cong Dinh was disbarred from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar following his recent arrest [JURIST reports] for allegedly conspiring against the government. Earlier this year, two Vietnamese newspaper editors were dismissed from their jobs for protesting the arrests of two journalists [JURIST reports] who reported on government corruption. The arrested reporters, who were accused of 'abusing freedom and democracy,' were sentenced to two years of prison and "re-education" for reporting on the so-called PMU 18 corruption scandal [JURIST reports]. Last September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Vietnamese government [HRW report] to end efforts "to silence independent bloggers, journalists, and human rights defenders" and to enforce the right to exercise freedom of expression, assembly and association under the Vietnamese Constitution [text] and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text]. In 2007, Triet granted amnesty [JURIST report] to 8,066 prisoners.

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