Two Christian dissidents - a Catholic religious brother and a Protestant leader - were among more than 12,000 prisoners released in an amnesty program in Communist Vietnam, officials announced on Thursday.
   The release of 12,264 prisoners was made to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War on 30 April. The New York-based Human Rights Watch identified the two as Brother John Euder Mai Duc Chuong, 64, of the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix, and Vu Gian Thao, 32.
   Brother Chuong was arrested in 1987 for disrupting public security and "conducting propaganda to oppose the socialist regime and undermining the policy of unity." He was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Thao was arrested in 1997 for "abusing religious freedom and infringing on the state's rights," and sentenced to three years in prison.
   Human rights groups have reported that religious believers are routinely subject to arrest, harassments, restrictions on travel when their religious beliefs are determined to be in opposition to Communist doctrine. Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 40 religious or political dissidents remain in prison.
22 May 00


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