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US slams travel ban on leading blogger

Rights activist stopped at airport on way to receive award reporter, Hanoi

December 19, 2012

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The US yesterday criticized the Vietnamese government for preventing a prominent blogger from traveling to the US to receive a prestigious award from Human Rights Watch.

Huynh Trong Hieu said that police detained him at Ho Chi Minh City airport on Sunday as he was about to travel to the US to collect the Hellman Hammett prize on behalf of father Huynh Ngoc Tuan and sister Huynh Thuc Vy - also bloggers - who won for “peacefully exercising their freedom of expression.”

“We are troubled by the intervention of Vietnamese authorities,” the US embassy in Hanoi said in a statement.

Hieu was questioned at the airport for two hours where officials took his passport, which included a valid US visa, and ordered him to pay fines of 270 million dong (US$13,000).

In November last year, security officials in central Quang Nam province went to his family home and confiscated computers and other electronic communication equipment and fined the family for “producing articles against the Communist party and national solidarity.”

The US yesterday urged the Vietnamese government to “lift travel restrictions on Mr Hieu and take steps to allow his family and Vietnamese to peacefully express their views without fear of retribution.”

Hieu, 25, started to write articles opposing the government in 2010 while his father Tuan, 49, was condemned to 10 years in jail and a subsequent three years under house arrest for “propaganda against the government” in 1992, one year after his wife’s death.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung instructed the Ministry of Public Security to “stop violent disturbances and plots from reactionaries and the establishment of opposition political organizations which go against the country’s benefits."

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