Vietnam frees at least one more political activist

Mon Apr 14, 2014 8:11am EDT

Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Tien Trung stands between wreaths during a funeral for Hoang Minh Chinh in Hanoi February 16, 2008. REUTERS/Kham

Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Tien Trung stands between wreaths during a funeral for Hoang Minh Chinh in Hanoi February 16, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Kham

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(Reuters) - Vietnam has freed at least one more political dissident, the second such release in the space of one week, as pressure increases on the communist government to cease arresting and jailing its critics.

Nguyen Tien Trung, a blogger, was released from a prison in southern Ho Chi Minh City at the weekend, his father said on Monday. Trung was convicted of subversion and news of his release was not made public.

Nguyen Tu Tu described it as a positive move by the authorities and suggested the international community may have played a part in helping to secure his son's release.

"The government said he followed the rules in prison very well, so he was released early," Tu said by telephone.

"But everyone understands, the international community has put a lot pressure on the Vietnamese and this is an important reason why the government has released prisoners like my son... I hope there will be more."

The BBC Vietnamese service reported the release of another dissident on Saturday, Vi Duc Hoi, a former communist party official who became a democracy activist. He was jailed in January 2011 for conducting propaganda against the state.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm Hoi's release.

Pressure has been mounting on Vietnam to honor international human rights commitments, which it renewed when it won a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council last year.

Vietnam's reputation for using fear and the law to stifle free speech, which its constitution permits, has put former foe the United States in a difficult spot as it pursues closer trade and military ties with a country that borders China and receives its political backing.

The United States and Vietnam are negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership deal that would bring large benefits for both sides, but would need the support of a Congress that has taken issue with human rights abuses.

Arrests and jail terms for Vietnamese dissidents have increased in recent years and early releases are rare.

Outspoken lawyer Cu Huy Ha Vu, the son of a former minister and close associate of late revolutionary Ho Chi Minh, was freed on April 5, three years into a 10-year sentence of both jail and house arrest for conducting "anti-state propaganda".

He flew to the United States and arrived the following day.

(Reporting by Martin Petty in Bangkok; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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