The president of Vietnam on Monday ordered the release of more than 10,000 prisoners, granting amnesty to commemorate the country's National Day. Although none of the high profile government dissidents was released, the president freed five individuals [AP report] convicted of national security crimes. Eleven of the prisoners released are foreigners from countries including the US, Canada and Australia. The amnesty [AFP report] is an event celebrated annually on National Day, September 2, which marks the day that Vietnam declared its independence from France. The individuals released were arrested for a broad range of different crimes. Vietnam has been criticized by the US, the EU and various human rights groups for jailing government dissidents.
The release of prisoners comes after many controversial arrests were made by Vietnam's communist government. In April, well-known lawyer and activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was among several dissidents in Vietnam convicted [JURIST report] for anti-government activity. In January 2010, four defendants were convicted [JURIST report] of activities aimed at ending communist rule in Vietnam. In March, 2010 Vietnamese authorities released [JURIST report] a Catholic priest and leading rights activist from Hanoi prison. Also in March, Vietnamese human rights lawyer and activist Le Thi Cong Nhan was released [JURIST report] from prison after serving a three-year sentence for allegedly spreading propaganda against the state.