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Vietnam: At least 14 arrests under the excuse of Olympic torch relay

Peaceful protestors held despite being over 1,000 miles away from relay route

In yet another bitter twist in Vietnam’s pattern of repressing legitimate and peaceful dissent, the country’s authorities used the arrival of the Olympic flame to arrest at least 14 people – most of whom were over 1,000 miles away from the torch relay.

Amnesty International has serious concerns over their safety and is calling for their immediate release.

Amnesty International said:

“The Vietnamese authorities must urgently investigate allegations of beatings against those detained, and ensure their safety and wellbeing.”

As the Olympic Torch relay made its stop in Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City on 29 April 2008, police arrested at least 12 demonstrators who had protested peacefully against Chinese policies. The majority of arrests took place in Hanoi, over 1,000 miles away from Ho Chi Minh City and the Olympic torch.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the ongoing campaign by the Vietnamese government to silence dissenting voices. Lawyers, trade unionists, religious leaders and Internet dissidents with links to emerging pro-democracy groups have been targeted since this crackdown began in 2006.

Earlier in April Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged the authorities to make the Olympic torch relay a success and ensure it would not “be affected by evil forces' distorted information,” according to state controlled media.

In the days leading up to the torch relay, at least three people were arrested, including Nguyen Hoang Hai, a journalist and blogger who had featured articles about protests against China's international policies. Most of those arrested on the day of the torch relay had voiced criticism against China about an ongoing territory dispute with Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, and about its policies in Tibet.

· According to reports received by Amnesty International, Nguyen Xuan Nghia and another arrested person, Vu Hung, a teacher, were beaten by police. Vu Hung is among four who have since been released.
· It remains unclear whether charges have been brought against any of those who remain in detention, such as writer Nguyen Xuan Nghia and Vu Anh Son, who are reportedly held in Kien An district, Hai Phong province.
· In breach of international human rights law the Vietnamese penal code criminalises peaceful dissent. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the authorities to urgently reform provisions relating to national security and ensure they are either removed or brought into line with international law. The organisation reiterates its calls on the Vietnamese authorities to honour its international human rights obligations by releasing all prisoners of conscience.

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