Vietnam’s most famous political blogger Nguyen Van Hai received a heroic welcome in Los Angeles after being released from prison in Vietnam.
Mr Hai’s son Nguyen Tri Dung told the ABC he was shocked when he received a surprise call from the US Embassy in Hanoi on Tuesday saying his father would be released.
“No one informed me that this was going to happen, so it was a surprise to me, but I am happy for my father and happy that he is warmly welcomed when he goes to the United States.”
Mr. Hai, commonly known by his pseudonym Dieu Cay, was not allowed to say goodbye to his family and friends upon his release. Instead, he was taken directly from the prison to Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi.
It wasn’t until his plane landed in Hong Kong, on his way to the United States, that his son was able to call.
“The phone call only lasted a minute or so, so I asked my dad about his condition … even though he tells me he’s okay, I have to ask him again, and he said again, ‘I’m fine’. “
Blogger Sentenced to 12 Years in Prison for “Anti-State Propaganda”
Dieu Cay achieved international notoriety in 2012 when he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “anti-state propaganda.”
This is one of the harshest sentences imposed on a political blogger.
Vietnam is a one-party communist state where press freedom is restricted and bloggers are regularly harassed, detained and sentenced for long periods of time.
It is believed that there are currently 26 other citizen journalists detained in Vietnam.
While in detention, Mr. Dung said his father’s health deteriorated dramatically, after he went on hunger strike twice to protest the “hellish” conditions.
“The first time, we don’t know because my father was separated from his family, we couldn’t visit him … but we all know about the second hunger strike and it was terrible “, did he declare.
Mr. Dung said that while he hoped his father would continue to blog about democracy, he was concerned that Dieu Cay’s freedom would affect family members who remained in Vietnam.
“Basically we’re safe right now, but we’re also thinking about a longer future, that when we’re still in Vietnam, they might want to show my dad that you might have to keep quiet, you you may want to see what happened to your son and your family. In Vietnam.”
The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi has said it welcomes the Vietnamese government’s decision to release Dieu Cay.
A Vietnamese human rights activist told the ABC that Dieu Cay will only be temporarily in the United States with his final destination being Canada.