October 3, 2011

His Excellency Nguyên Minh Triêt
President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Minister of Public Security
Lt Gen Tran Dai Quang
Ministry of Public Security
44 Yet Kieu Street
Ha Noi
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Fax: + 844 3942 0223
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Pham Binh Manh
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1 Ton That Dam Street
Ba Dinh district
Ha Noi
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
Fax: + 844 3823 1872

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of writers Tran Duc Thach and Nguyen Van Tinh; however, we remain concerned for the many other writers and journalists still detained in Vietnam.

According to our information, dissident writers Tran Duc Thach and Nguyen Van Tinh were released on August 30, 2011, under an amnesty celebrating Vietnamese National Day (September 2). Radio Free Asia reports that they were the only political prisoners among more than 10,000 to be freed. Tran and Nguyen were arrested in September 2008 as part of an ongoing crackdown on peaceful dissent in Vietnam. They were tried under Article 88 of the Penal Code for “propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam” and were sentenced to three years in prison. At the time of their release, both writers were in very poor health after being held in Nam Ha province’s labor camp under appalling conditions.

Tran Duc Thach, aged 59, is a prolific poet, internet writer, and member of the Association of Writers of Nghe An province. He is known for his writings exposing corruption, injustice, and human rights abuses. He is the recipient of the 2008 Hellman Hammet award, administered by Human Rights Watch. Tran’s sentence was due to expire two weeks after his release.

Nguyen Van Tinh, aged 68, is the co-editor of the underground review To Quoc (The Nation). He was arrested for online articles and essays published between November 2006 and September 2008. His sentence was due to expire four months after his release.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Tran Duc Thach and Nguyen Van Tinh, but continue to express concern for other writers and journalists detained in Vietnam, and currently serving lengthy sentences, as part of an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Vietnam is a signatory. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your consideration of this crucial matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Le Cong Phung
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1233 20th St NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Fax: (202) 861-0917

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