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dpa : Vietnam says jailed dissident monk may be released before September

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HANOI, June 5 (dpa) – A prominent dissident Buddhist monk currently under house arrest may be released before the end of his sentence in September, Vietnam’s spokeswoman said Thursday.

Thich Quang Do, the deputy head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (U.B.C.V.) was sentenced in 1995 to five years in prison followed by five years under house arrest, Phan Thuy Thanh said.

According to the government spokeswoman, the 75 year old monk’s sentence will be completed on September 3rd but he could be released before then.

“With a good record of obedience, early lifting of surveillance may be possible,” Thanh said.

The Paris-based International Buddhist Information Bureau said Sunday that Thich Quang Do had been given a two year sentence of “administrative detention” which should have ended on June 1st.

While serving the five years in prison, he was pardoned and released in 1998, but rearrested in Ho Chi Minh City on May 31st 2001. He was given a two-year term of house arrest when he launched an appeal for democracy in communist Vietnam, the I.B.I.B. spokesperson said.

“In 2001, the authorities arbitrarily ‘reactivated’ the prison sentence for which he was amnestied in 1998,” the I.B.I.B said in the press release Sunday. “The extra-judicial sentence handed down on Thich Quang Do contravenes all international human right standards on the right to due process of law.”

The leader of the U.B.C.V, Thich Huyen Quang, has been under house arrest since the 1980s, but in April he was allowed to meet his deputy Thich Quang Do and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

The move was seen by some as a sign that communist Vietnam may softening its stance against the banned Buddhist organization, but the I.B.I.B dismissed the meeting as a public relations exercise.

“It now appears that the meeting [with Khai] in Hanoi on April 2 was simply a ploy to placate international opinion and defuse the harsh criticisms leveled against Vietnam on account of its abysmal human rights record,” said Vo Van Ai, I.B.I.B.’s overseas spokesman.

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