Vietnam dissident blogger released from prison, now in US

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Vietnam dissident blogger Ta Phong Tan was released from Vietnamese prison and arrived Sunday in the United States, the US State Departmente confirmed.

“Ta Phong Tan decided to travel to the United States after her release from prison,” a State Department official said on condition of anonymity. “We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release Tan.”

Tan had served three years of a 10-year prison term on anti-state charges in connection with her blog Cong Ly v Su That (Justice and Truth). The advocacy group Committee to Protect Journalists in New York said the blog “focused on human rights abuses and corruption among police and in the court system.”

CPJ, Human Rights Watch and the United States have repeatedly called for the release of the one-time Vietnamese policewoman who turned to journalism to address rights violations which she saw on the job.

Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, welcomed her release but noted that Vietnam is still holding more than a dozen journalists behind bars in connection with their work.

“Vietnamese authorities should do all they can, including repeal the country’s harsh anti-press laws, to ensure that journalists are able to work and report freely,” Dietz said.

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for the international group Human Rights Watch, said that Tan’s release represented “Vietnam’s cynical practice of releasing high profile dissidents from prison” and forcing them directly into exile “with immediate departure from the country being the price of their freedom.”

“Hanoi is providing an aura of human rights progress while actually tightening political control,” Robertson said in a press release.

The US State Departmeht said that Tan had indicated in a prior conversation that “she wanted to come to the United States if released from prison.”

Tan, 47, had served as a police officer before turning to journalism and commentary in 2004. Her writings prompted the Vietnamese Communist Party to revoke her party membership in 2006 but she continued to criticize the government.

In 2013, the year following her conviction, the US State Department honoured her in its International Women of Courage Awards program.

Tan’s release came nearly a year after her fellow dissident Nguyen Van Hai, who was convicted in the same trial as Tan, was similarly released and moved to the US

In June, the US State Department noted in its annual human rights report that Vietnam was one of several countries where the inherent conflict presented by modern technology is used to both combat human rights violations and carry them out.

“We remain deeply concerned for all such prisoners in Vietnam. We call on the government to release unconditionally all these prisoners and allow all Vietnamese to express their political views without fear of retribution,” the State Department official said Sunday in an e-mailed statement.

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