Vietnam: Writer released from prison continues to be harassed

New York, November 27, 2006—Writer Pham Hong Son, who was freed from prison on August 30 in a presidential amnesty apparently intended to clear the way for Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization, says he continues to be harassed and kept under virtual house arrest in Hanoi.

In an e-mail to Vietnamese dissident exile groups, Son said, “From the morning of 17 November 2006, security and police forces would not allow me to leave my house without any reason.” Son said his house was padlocked by authorities from November 18 to November 20, and he, his wife and two small sons were unable to leave. Son said that uniformed and plain-clothes police have been stationed outside of his house since November 12 “especially to prevent visits from foreigners.” The dates covered the high-profile Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in Hanoi November 18-19, when the government feared embarrassing demonstrations.

Son also said that police stop visitors after they leave his house, asking for identification. Son said that he was verbally assaulted and threatened when he was taken to a police station.

“The release from prison of Pham Hong Son now looks to have been nothing but a cynical ploy to deflect international criticism at a crucial time for Vietnam’s foreign policy,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “He is under house arrest in all but name. We call on Vietnam to restore Pham Hang Son’s full liberty and cease harassing him and his contacts immediately.”

Son was detained in 2002 and accused of antistate activities after writing essays and translating and posting online an essay titled “What is Democracy?” that had first appeared on the U.S. State Department’s Web site. Another Internet writer and journalist, Nguyen Vu Binh, remains in prison on a seven-year sentence related to his work.

A week before Son’s release in August, CPJ sent a letter to Vietnam’s President Nguyen Minh Triet expressing concern about the harassment and detention of dissident writers, and new regulations further impeding independent reporting in Vietnam. You can read that letter at . The original alert about Son’s release is at .