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Vietnam dissident, freed to US, meets lawmaker

Author Tran Khai Thanh Thuy met with a US congressman active on human rights days after she was released from prison. -AFP

Sat, Jul 02, 2011

WASHINGTON - Vietnamese dissident author Tran Khai Thanh Thuy met Friday with a US congressman active on human rights, days after she was released from prison in a rare move by the Hanoi government.

Representative Ed Royce, whose district in California's Orange County has a large Vietnamese American community, met there with Thuy and said they discussed strategies for advancing rights in the communist country.

"Tran Khai Thanh Thuy has been leading the fight for democracy and human rights in Vietnam. She has paid a great price, including physical assault by communist government thugs," Royce said in a statement.

"Her release is great news for Vietnamese Americans and all committed to freedom," Royce said.

Thuy was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in February 2010 on an assault charge, which she said during her one-day trial was "a fabrication and total slander."

After Thuy's arrest in October 2009, the US embassy said it was concerned that she had been beaten after publicly expressing support for a group of activists.

After arriving in San Francisco, Thuy told Radio Free Asia that she felt as if "I just came from Hell to Heaven."

"My passion is writing; I'm a straightforward person. I think honesty is necessary for a society to develop," Thuy told the US-based broadcaster.

"I don't regret and, even if I had a second chance at life, I would still do what I have done," she said.

Dozens of peaceful political critics have been sentenced to long prison terms since Vietnam launched a crackdown on free expression in late 2009, according to rights groups.

Thuy's release was believed to be the first in years. It came as Vietnam moves to build closer relations with the United States, in part due to what Hanoi sees as increasingly aggressive moves by China in disputed waters.

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