HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has granted amnesty to more than 18,000 prisoners to mark the 70th anniversary of independence from France, but authorities said Friday they do not include anyone convicted of national security crimes.
Giang Son, deputy chairman of the President's Office, told a news conference Friday that 18,539 inmates were granted amnesty under two directives signed by President Truong Tan Sang. They will be released from prisons starting Monday.
"The amnesty reflects a tradition for mercy of our country," he said.
Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc said that there were 34 foreigners are among those to be released — 16 from China, six from Malaysia, six from Laos and two from Australia.
None of those to be released had been convicted of national security crimes, according to Le Quy Vuong, vice minister of public security. They included 837 inmates who were sentenced for corruption-related offenses, 2,188 for murders and 1,449 for drug-related crimes.
International human rights groups, U.S. government and some other Western governments have urged Vietnamese government to release all prisoners of conscience who were jailed for peacefully expressing their views, but Hanoi has said only those who broke the law are locked up.
U.S. officials have said the communist government's crackdown on dissidents appeared to have lessened, but more than 100 remain behind bars for vaguely-worded national security laws.
More than 63,000 prisoners had been given early release under presidential amnesties since 2009, according to government figures.