27 Januar 2006

Released Vietnamese dissident defiant, says he fears for his

A Vietnamese dissident released from prison this week in an amnesty vowed Friday to continue to push for the ruling Communist Party to allow multi-party elections but said he now fears for his life.

Nguyen Khac Toan, 50, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2002 on espionage charges after he posted articles on the internet about public protests against the government seizing land for development.

He was released on Tuesday as part of a Tet lunar new year amnesty, but said he is now under house surveillance for the next three years.

"I am publicly fighting for freedom, and I don't mind being under surveillance," Toan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa on Friday by telephone. "I will keep fighting with my friends. We are firm in our stance."

Government spokesman Le Dung declined to comment on Toan's statements Friday when reached by telephone Friday. Vietnam insists that it does not have any political prisoners and arrests only those who pose a threat to society.

Vietnam's communist government has in recent years jailed dozens of government critics under laws such as espionage and "undermining national unity."

Toan was defying the terms of his release by giving a telephone interview, but said he would not stop his fight to bring reform to the one-party state of Vietnam.

"I had to copy out a pre-prepared letter and vow not to carry out any anti-government or anti-Communist Party activities, nor to gather with other dissidents, nor to give interviews with newspapers and radio," Toan said.

Toan described his two years in prison as "like hell" and said he was kept in solitary confinement with no light for three months. He said he was once chained to a wall for a week and not allowed to bathe.

He said he was happy to see his mother again after release, but still worries for the safety of himself and his family.

"Being under house surveillance is in some ways worse that prison. Not only me, but my whole family now is watched. Police are all around my house," Toan said.

"Now, I don't know if an out-of-nowhere 'accident' might kill me," he added.

International human rights groups this week applauded the release of Toan, but said Vietnam's continued detention of other government critics show its policy is still to limit freedom of speech.

Source: dpa kj pw