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Vietnam: Human Rights Watch Welcomes Release of Political Prisoners

(New York) - Human Rights Watch welcomed the recent release of political prisoners in Vietnam, including prominent dissidents Dr. Doan Viet Hoat and Dr. Nguyen Dan Que.

This is an extremely positive step by the Vietnamese government," said Sidney Jones, director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "We hope that this signals a change in direction in Vietnam, and a greater openness by the government to allowing citizens to exercise fundamental freedoms."

Dr. Doan Viet Hoat, a prominent intellectual, was arrested in 1990 for his part in the publication of a pro-democracy publication "Freedom Forum". He was detained without charge for three years. In 1993 he was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for "attempting to overthrow the government." A prominent dissident intellectual, Hoat has received several awards, including the Golden Plume Award for Press Freedom by the World Association of Newspapers in June 1998. Dr. Hoat left Vietnam for Bangkok today and is expected to join his wife and family in the United States.

Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, an endocrinologist and the first member of the human rights organization Amnesty International in Vietnam, was arrested in June 1990 for issuing a public appeal for political pluralism and a respect for human rights. Dr. Que was sentenced in October 1991 to twenty years in prison and five years house arrest. Que, who has family in Ho Chi Minh City, was expected to remain in Vietnam for the time being.

While praising the release of Doan Viet Hoat and Nguyen Dan Que, Human Rights Watch said that dozens of dissidents in Vietnam continue to be detained for religious or political reasons because of their beliefs. "We urge the government to release all of those still detained, and cease the restrictions on the liberties of others, for having spoken out in favor of greater democracy, freedom of expression, association and assembly," said Jones. She noted that the current amnesty does not affect numerous other dissidents who are presently under "administrative detainment" according to Directive 31/CP, which authorizes detention without trial for up to two years by the Ministry of Interior.

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