Vietnam dissident blogger Ta Phong Tan released from prison, heads to US

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Ta Phong Tan, a dissident blogger and former police officer, has been released from jail in Vietnam and arrived in the US. She had served three years of a 10-year prison term.

Ta Phong Tan arrived in the US on Sunday after being released from prison. She had been jailed on charges of anti-state propaganda in connection with her blog “Cong Ly v Su That” (“Justice and Truth”).

The US State Department said the 47-year-old Tan had indicated in a prior conversation that “she wanted to come to the United States if released from prison.”

“We welcome the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release Tan,” a State Department official said on Sunday in a statement. “We remain deeply concerned for all such prisoners in Vietnam. We call on the government to release unconditionally all these prisoners and allow all Vietnamese to express their political views without fear of retribution.”

Tan served as a police officer before turning to journalism and commentary in 2004. She wrote about rights violations and corruption she had seen while working for the police. As a result of her work, the Vietnamese Communist Party revoked her party membership in 2006 but she continued to write. She was convicted in 2012.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in New York said Tan’s blog “focused on human rights abuses and corruption among police and in the court system.” The CPJ coordinator in Asia said Vietnam was still holding more than a dozen journalists in prison in connection with their work.

Forced exile

Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch, said Tan’s release represented “Vietnam’s cynical practice of releasing high profile dissidents from prison” and forcing them directly into exile “with immediate departure from the country being the price of their freedom.”

“Hanoi is providing an aura of human rights progress while actually tightening political control,” Robertson said in a press release.

The US State Department honored Tan in its International Women of Courage Awards program in 2013.

A year ago, fellow dissident Nguyen Van Hai was also released and moved to the US. Hai was convicted in the same trial as Tan.

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