Vietnam has freed an ailing pastor imprisoned for campaigning for religious freedom, and deported him and his family to the United States. Lutheran Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, his wife and five children arrived in Los Angeles, on July 28 following a deal that has seen him released early from an 11-year prison sentence in exchange for going into exile in the U.S., Boat People SOS, a US-based non-profit organization that provides assistance to victims of human rights violations in Vietnam, said on Jul 29. "We welcome the early release of Pastor Chinh but deplore the fact that he and his loved ones must go into exile," said BPSOS president Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang. "We are also concerned about nearly 100 other religious prisoners who also deserve freedom and continuing religious persecution in Vietnam," he said. Pastor Chinh was charged with "undermining national unity" and sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2011 for campaigning for freedom of worship for ethnic minority groups in Vietnam's Central Highlands.
Earlier this month, his wife Tran Thi Hong visited him in Xuan Loc Prison, Dong Nai province, and said his health had deteriorated. "He was pale and could not stand because he was kept in solitary confinement and was mistreated for a month after telling a visiting U.S. delegates about his treatment in prison," Hong said. The communist government has deported at least four jailed dissidents and prisoners of conscience to the U.S. and France in recent years.
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