02/07/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Dissident Catholic lawyer Le Cong Dinh released ahead of schedule in Saigon

Detained in June 2009 on charges of trying to overthrow the Communist government, he got a five-year prison sentence plus three years under house arrest. Released for good abidance by prison rules and his mother's failing health, he is happy to spend Tet celebrations with family.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Vietnam freed Le Cong Dinh, 44, after he served more than three years of a five-year jail sentence. In prison since June 2009, the US-trained human rights lawyer was convicted in January 2010 on subversion charges. A Catholic, he was subjected to a one-day phoney trial for "activities aimed at overthrowing" the one-party Communist government. He was released because of "good abidance by prison rules" and his mother's failing health.

Although he lost weight during his ordeal, he was in good spirits upon his release, knowing that he would be able to spend the Vietnamese New Year with his family members. "Dinh came home this morning at around 8:30 am," said Dinh's nice, Le Ngoc Anh Dai. "He is well, but a little bit thinner. In general, he is OK. This afternoon, we had him undergo a physical exam," she told Radio Free Asia.

Dinh-who was taken into custody in June 2009-was one of four pro-democracy activists convicted in January 2010 at a one-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City.

During his court case, Dinh, a former vice-chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, allegedly admitted to breaking the law by meeting with foreign groups and advocating multiparty democracy. However, he rejected charges that he planned to overthrow the government.

Dinh, who studied in France and the United States, defended human rights activists like Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, both jailed for anti-government activities.

When he was arrested, state media reported that police found documents at his home and in his office showing that he had connections with reactionary and foreign organisations bent on undermining the Vietnamese state.

Some sources suggest that he was arrested for backing legal action against an agreement between Vietnam and China over bauxite mining in central Vietnam that has generated outrage and dissatisfaction among many Vietnamese.

Many human rights organisations were angered by Dinh's sentence, which included three years of house arrest on top of a five-year jail sentence. Despite his release, he is expected to complete his sentence according to the Communist nation's well-established practice.

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