Vietnam Frees Australian pro-democracy activist

Sydney, Australia, Jul 11 (EFE).- Vietnam released Vietnamese-Australian activist Chau Van Kham, sentenced in 2019 to 12 years in prison for extremism, over his ties to the Viet Tan pro-democratic party, official sources said Tuesday.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he “very much welcomes the release of Chau,” in remarks Monday from Berlin, through Australian public broadcaster ABC.

Chau’s lawyer Dan Nguyen said in a statement through Amnesty International Australia that the activist, who returned Monday night to Australia, is with his wife and two sons.

He also thanked the government’s, organizations and individuals’ efforts that fought for his release.

Chau was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in January 2019 after being accused of entering the country with a false document and sentenced in an express trial to 12 years in prison for extremism charges 10 months later.

This was due to Chau, 73, being linked to pro-democratic group Viet Tan, considered an extremist entity in the country but a human rights organization in Australia.

Deputy Australian Prime Minister Richard Marles said Chau was released on “humanitarian” reasons and “in the spirit of friendship which exists between Australia and Vietnam,” according to ABC.

Chau is one of “more than 150 political activists in Vietnam who have been detained for peaceful acts in favor of freedom of expression,” Human Rights Watch Asia Human Rights Director Elaine Pearson said in a statement.

Pearson spoke of journalist Dang Dihn Bach and activists Mai Phan Loi, Dang Dinh Bach, and Hoang Thi Minh Hong among them and urged Australia to continue advocating for their release.

The exact number of political prisoners in Vietnam is unknown, as numbers provided by different human rights organizations have discrepancies.

While Human Rights Watch says the total exceeds 150, Amnesty International said there were 128 political prisoners in the country last year. Dissident organization Defend the Defenders raised the number to more than 250. EFE


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