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Vietnam amnesty for common criminals only

 VATICAN CITY (SE): Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop says that a decision by the government of Vietnam to release 10,000 prisoners on September 2, National Independence Day, will principally affect common criminals, not human rights advocates or those arrested for struggling for religious freedom.
The chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission says, “The amnesty is a measure that is repeated every year and is often for prisoners held for crimes regarding security and not for people who are in prison for reasons of conscience. What people are asking us to remember, on this occasion, are those who are imprisoned for political and conscience reasons, people who struggle for freedom, rights, justice and democracy. It is, however, good news that some members of ethnic minorities of the central highlands are to be released.”
Fides reported on August 29 that the president of Vietnam, Truong Tan Sang, has ordered the release of 10,000 prisoners in the amnesty. It notes that preliminary information says that it applies to common criminals only and no high-ranking dissident politicians are listed among those to be released.
There are, however, some representatives belonging to ethnic minorities from the Central Highlands of Vietnam, many of whom are Christians from the Montagnard (Mountain People), who have always been repressed and marginalised.
Among the 10,535 prisoners to be released, 11 are foreigners, serving sentences for common crimes. The release of prisoners is a custom on the occasion of Independence Day, 17,000 were released last year and 5,000 in 2009.
The Vietnamese Criminal Code stipulates imprisonment for anyone who criticises the government publicly. Vietnamese justice has been used against Christian representatives and political groups not recognised by the government, dishing out long prison sentences.
According to the Commission for Human Rights in Vietnam there are at least 258 prisoners of conscience in the Vietnamese prisons, detained solely for their ideas.


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