Vietnamese journalist and religious activist Dang Xuan Dieu was granted early release Jan. 12 from a 13-year prison sentence on anti-state charges filed over his critical reporting. As with recent early releases of other jailed Vietnamese journalists, Dieu was forced to immediately board a plane and go into exile in France as a condition for his freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) website reported. Dieu, a reporter with Vietnam Redemptorist News, an online multimedia platform run by Catholic priests and religious activists out of a church in Ho Chi Minh City, said that he suffered extraordinary abuses during his more than five years in prison. On one occasion, he said, prison authorities severely beat him for refusing to wear prison clothes emblazoned with the word "criminal." On another, he was shackled in a cell with another prisoner who often physically assaulted him. Dieu, who was frequently held in solitary confinement in a cell with no toilet or access to clean water, said he staged several hunger strikes to protest his and other prisoners' mistreatment.
Despite the abuse and deprivation he suffered, Dieu told CPJ he initially declined to leave prison for a life in exile in France. Dieu said he was persuaded to go by his family after he was allowed to contact them. "During that time I was confused because I was detained in solitary confinement. I felt that I should leave in order to take care of my health and to make my mother feel less worried," he said. "I was forced into exile and was not given the choice of being released early in Vietnam."
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