Activist exiled to France

Catholic groups held vigils for Dieu and his fellow prisoners

A Catholic activist, Dang Xuan Dieu, has been released from a thirteen year prison sentence and sent into exile in France.

Reports said that Dieu, who has been in custody since July 2011, was taken directly from prison camp to Tan Son Nhat airport in Ho Chi Minh City and put on a flight to Paris.

He was sentenced with thirteen other activists in 2013 at a high profile trial at the People’s Court in Nghe An on charges of working to overthrow the government – under Article 79 of the penal code.

He was accused of belonging to the exiled Vietnamese reform party, Viet Tan, which has been denounced by Communist party officials as a terrorist organisation.

Viet Tan has repeatedly renounced violence. It says it is working to promote the development of civil society in Vietnam in order to create a more pluralistic political system.

In recent years, Vietnam has released other well known political prisoners into enforced exile in the United States.

Observers say that Europe may increasingly provide an alternative location for Vietnamese dissidents.

The European Union had called for the release of Dieu and his fellow activists.

Analysts say the EU may have acquired additional leverage with the Vietnamese authorities now that a free trade agreement between the two sides is due to come into effect.

Vietnam has continued a harsh crackdown on prominent critics of the government, subjecting them to regular harassment, intimidation and in some cases, long prison terms.