Vietnam said Friday it will free more than 18,200 prisoners, including 34 foreign nationals, to mark its 70th independence anniversary. The detainees will not include those convicted of crimes related to national security.
The Southeast Asian country will begin releasing the prisoners starting Monday, ahead of celebrations on Sept. 2 to mark its independence from France, Giang Son, deputy chairman of the president’s office, said at a news conference in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, the Associated Press (AP) reported. He added that the inmates were awarded amnesty under two directives signed by President Truong Tan Sang.
The prisoners to be freed were convicted of crimes including murder, bribery and drug and human trafficking. However, those sentenced for "propaganda" against the state or attempting to oust the regime were not among these inmates, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. Vietnam's biggest amnesty was conducted in 2009, when it released 20,599 prisoners, officials said.
"The amnesty reflects the humanitarian nature of the [Communist] party and state of Vietnam, and is aimed at encouraging the inmates to become useful citizens," Giang said, according to AFP.
The foreign nationals who have been granted amnesty include 16 Chinese, six Laotians and Malaysians, two Australians and Filipinos, one Cambodian and Thai national. Authorities did not specify the crimes of these prisoners.
International human rights groups, along with the U.S. and some Western governments, requested the Vietnamese government to free all prisoners jailed for peacefully expressing their opinions, according to AP. However, Hanoi maintains that it jailed only those who violated the law.
Vietnam's last prisoner amnesty was in 2013 when it released over 15,000 detainees.