WASHINGTON — Vietnam has released two more prominent political activists, days after another well-known dissident was freed and allowed to go to the United States.
Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi were released months before their jail terms ended, in an unexpected move that has drawn mixed reactions from observers.
According to Trung, authorities told him he was given leniency because of his good behavior in prison. However, the 31-year-old outspoken activist said he thinks international pressure led to his early release.
“Many people both inside and outside the country have supported me, rallying for my release. The European Union sent people to visit me while I was in detention, so I know the world community pressurized Vietnam hard in my case. The pressure must have been so great that Vietnam freed many people at the same time,” said Trung.
Trung was arrested in 2009 and later sentenced to seven years in prison for subversion. The computer expert, who still faces three more years of house arrest, said he has no current plans for political activism.
Vi Duc Hoi, who was jailed for five years for "anti-state propaganda" in 2011, also was freed over the weekend.
One week earlier, rights lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu was released early from prison and traveled to the United States after serving three years of a seven-year prison sentence.
Both Hanoi and Washington have not commented on circumstances in details about Vu’s sudden release.
Other activists remain in prison. Nguyen Tri Dung, son of blogger Nguyen Van Hai, whose case was highlighted by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012, told VOA’s Vietnamese service he has no hope for his father’s release.
“Cases are different. They cannot be compared in any way. We always keep hoping, but I see no reason that the authorities would set my father free soon,” he said.
The releases came as Vietnam is negotiating a free trade deal with the United States. But some U.S. congress members are vowing to block the agreement if Hanoi fails to improve its human rights record.
Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on Monday that it is ‘relieved’ to learn about Trung and Hoi’s release, but it also urged Hanoi to free "the 31 netizens who remain in prison in violation of their fundamental rights."
Vietnam reiterates that it does not jail prisoners of conscience, only those who violate the law.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.