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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 June 2007, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
Vietnam frees leading dissident
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The Vietnamese authorities have released leading dissident Nguyen Vu Binh from prison.

A former journalist who used the internet to criticise the Communist government, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for spying in 2003.

The government said Mr Binh, 39, had been granted amnesty by President Nguyen Minh Triet.

His release comes two weeks before a visit to the US by Mr Triet, although eight others have recently been jailed.

'Deliberate timing'

After Mr Triet was formally invited to Washington, Vietnamese Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang said Hanoi would release three unnamed dissidents.

The timing seems to be deliberate, says the BBC's former Vietnam correspondent, Bill Hayton.

Mr Binh was top of the list of dissidents that US and European diplomats is pressing to have released.

But eight other dissidents have recently been convicted of conducting propaganda against the state and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Human rights groups are calling for their release, but Vietnamese authorities seem determined to make an example of those calling for an end to Communist Party rule, says our correspondent.

Mr Binh was arrested in September 2002 for writing an online article criticising a border agreement between Vietnam and China.

He had also planned to create an alternative political party, which is illegal in Vietnam. The Communist Party is the country's only political party.

VNA state media said Mr Binh "thanked the Nam Ha prison management for their care while he was serving his sentence there".

Communists keep tight grip on Vietnam
19 May 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Vietnam dissident 'to be freed'
28 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Vietnam re-arrests prominent writer
27 Sep 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
10 May 07 |  Country profiles

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