Vietnam grants amnesty to over 5,000 prisoners
HANOI — Vietnam will release more than 5,000 prisoners as part of an annual prison amnesty, but not a Catholic priest whom U.S. senators have campaigned to have freed, an official said Monday.
President Nguyen Minh Triet will release 5,459 prisoners to mark National Day, which falls on Wednesday, Vice Minister of Public Security Le The Tiem told reporters at a news conference.
But Tiem said Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, who was sentenced to eight years in 2007 for anti-government activities after he helped organize a pro-democracy party, would not be released this time for lack of "sincere repentance."
In July, 37 U.S. senators sent Vietnam's president a letter asking that the priest be released, saying he had no lawyers during his four-hour trial and was silenced repeatedly by a security guard who put his hand over the priest's mouth, then removed him from the courtroom.
Of those who will be released, 19 are foreigners, including four from China, one each from the United States and Australia and two from Canada. The government did not release their names or disclose their crimes.
At least 11 of the prisoners, all of them members of minority ethnic groups, had been convicted of "undermining national unity" for participating in anti-government protests in the Central Highlands between 2003 and 2005.
In January, the president also granted early release to more than 15,000 prisoners in an amnesty to mark the Lunar New Year holidays.
The Associated Press - September 1st, 2009