HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam has released a high-profile blogger who has traveled to the United States, the American embassy said on Sunday, but a human right group said the move extended a “cynical” practice by Hanoi to send its critics into exile.
Ta Phong Tan, a former police officer, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2012 for “anti-state propaganda” after she was arrested for writing in her blog about human rights and corruption.
“We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release Ta Phong Tan, who decided to travel to the United States after her release from prison,” said Public Affairs Officer Terry White at the United States embassy in Hanoi.
White called on Hanoi to release other political prisoners, saying Vietnamese should be allowed to “express their political views without fear of retribution.”
The Vietnamese government did not make any statement on Tan’s release.
The popularity of political blogs has grown with increasing Internet usage in Vietnam and simmering discontent over the Communist government’s handling of the economy and rampant graft.
“This release continues Vietnam’s cynical practice of releasing high profile dissidents from prison directly into forced exile, with immediate departure from the country being the price of their freedom,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch.
Robertson said that these methods actually reflected a tightening of political control.
The release came shortly after National Assembly chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung visited the United States and ahead of the national congress in January 2016 at which the ruling Communist Party will pick a new leadership for the Southeast Asian nation.
Another two bloggers were sentenced to a jail term of up to 12 years at the same trial that convicted Tan. One of the two - blogger Nguyen Van Hai - who was released in October 2014 after staging a hunger strike - also traveled to the United States.
Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Shri Navaratnam