Vietnam's best-known dissident was freed Monday along with at least two Vietnamese-Americans who had been jailed for alleged plots to overthrow the Hanoi government, officials said.
Doan Viet Hoat, serving a 15-year sentence for publishing pro-democracy newsletters, was freed from Hanoi Prison and put on a flight to Bangkok. U.S. officials said they have accepted him for resettlement.Although he is little known inside Vietnam, where the government controls the media, his case was taken up by the European Parliament and the World Association of Newspapers, which earlier this year gave him its Golden Pen of Freedom for his commitment to a free press.
Another top dissident, Nguyen Dan Que, also was being released and was expected to leave the country Tuesday for resettlement in the United States.
They were freed as part of an amnesty for 5,219 inmates to mark National Day on Wednesday. Vietnamese officials told a news conference last Friday that several expatriates, including Americans, were on the list.
A government source said Tuesday that Vietnamese-Americans Jimmy Tran and Ly Tong had been released. Tong was on the passenger list for a flight to Hong Kong but did not board the plane, a Vietnam Airlines official said.
In September 1992, Tong, a former South Vietnamese air force pilot, hijacked a Vietnam Airlines jet from Thailand and dropped 50,000 anti-government leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.
He then parachuted to the ground, apparently intending to lead the revolution he hoped would follow, but was instead arrested.
Tong had escaped a communist labor camp in 1980 and trekked to freedom across Southeast Asia. He became a U.S. citizen and earned a master's degree in political science from the University of New Orleans in 1990.
Tran, a Vietnamese-American who also was opposed to the Hanoi government, was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 1993 for plotting to explode bombs in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, the old South Vietnamese capital.
Vietnam denies it holds anyone for political or religious beliefs, only those who have broken the law.