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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 05:55 GMT
Vietnam cyber dissident released
Nguyen Van Nam, 37, is released in January 2005
Prisoners are often released to mark the lunar New Year
The Vietnamese government has released internet dissident Nguyen Khac Toan after four years' imprisonment.

Toan, 51, was arrested in January 2002 and found guilty of espionage by a Hanoi court later that year.

But he has now been given amnesty to mark the lunar New Year, which begins on 29 January.

A Vietnam war veteran and freelance writer, Toan was judged to have emailed details about farmers' demonstrations to Vietnamese groups overseas.

He was originally sentenced to 12 years in prison and then three years of house arrest.

"I was released after serving only one third of my sentence because they thought I was a good prisoner," Toan told the BBC's Vietnamese service.

"I have returned home now, but I still have to be on a three year house arrest. I can't move out of Hanoi and I am not allowed to resume the political works that I was doing before the arrest."

He described prison as "like hell", and said that he had to work hard, under tough regulations.

But he said the hardest part "was not the labour, but the lack of time for myself. I didn't have much chance to read, to study, nor there was any radio to listen to the news".

Despite his experience in jail, Toan said he had no intention of leaving the political scene.

"To achieve a democratic society is the wish of the entire Vietnamese nation," he said.

The government in Hanoi retains a tight grip on the country's press.

No private domestic outlets are permitted, and the regime has been known to jail many people who are critical of the government.

But in its annual report for 2005, Human Rights Watch said the Vietnamese government had taken some steps forward in countering international concern about its human rights record.

During 2005 it released at least 12 political and religious prisoners.

Nguyen Khac Toan is the first dissident to be released in 2006.


SEE ALSO:
Vietnam to free top dissidents
31 Jan 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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