One of the most prominent dissidents in Vietnam recently released from prison has disclosed to the media that she is grateful for having a Bible as her companion during her imprisonment.

Ms Lê thi Công Nhân
Ms Le Thi Cong Nhan, the 31 year old attorney of the International BAR Assc. was sentenced in May 2007 by the Vietnamese court for "spreading propaganda against the government and collaborating with the overseas advocates" along with her boss, attorney Nguyen Van Dai.The two were running a center for human rights law and supporting alternative political parties in Vietnam when the arrest took place on Mar 6, 2007.

Ms. Cong Nhan has come to the government's attention since her involvement with the Vietnam Progression Party as a spokeswoman, and a member of the Bloc 8406, a pro democracy movement to which the most famous prisoner of conscience Rev. Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly is also a member. Prior to her arrest, she was invited to speak at the 2006 International Convention for Labors Rights VAT/SAVA in Poland, but her attempt to leave for the convention was hampered by the police at Noi Bai airport. The 2007 conviction has stripped her license to practice law in Vietnam, however earned her international support, a 2008 Hellman/Hammett Ward from the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Organization and a reputation as "catalyst for the national unity, the bridge for the Vietnamese domestics and overseas in their struggle for human rights and democracy" as To Quoc Magazine has called.

After serving 3 years of her sentence, which is a reduction of 1 year from the original sentence after her appeal in 2008, Cong Nhan has been release on Mar 6 from a prison in North Vietnam to be on probation for 3 years. The news of her release was widely welcome by the Vietnamese communities in Vietnam and abroad. Numerous requests from the overseas media community for interviews with her had caused her to be harassed and detained by the local police for hours. However the courageous activist has always remained defiant and spoke her mind on various issues without fear.

When being asked by reporters about how she has kept her morale while being housed among the most dangerous female criminals in prison, Ms Cong Nhan has given the credit to her faith in God and reading the bible which the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had specifically asked Vietnam's Minister of Public Security Chief Nguyen Van Huong to hand deliver to her. "Reading materials especially religious items which reflect Christian view are strictly prohibited. However since it came from the USCIRF's and the mere fact that it was handed to me by the Police chief had put a pressure on them to let me keep it", said the newest political parolee on US based Radio Saigon Houston.

With her voice trembled, Cong Nhan said with emotion: "In the 3 years of my imprisonment, God has been my friend, my teacher, my companion who has been lifting me up, strengthening my faith, and guiding me through it all. He has been my light, my joy, my strength and my peace".

While Ms Cong Nhan is on parole, dozens of other pro democracy and human rights activists who have been convicted of similar crimes during the past few years including Nguyen Van Dai and Fr. Nguyen Van Ly are still serving out their sentences. Last year, four activists originally charged with the same crime under Article 88, among them was Le Cong Dinh, a Catholic and a US educated lawyer, were later re-charged with a more severe crime of "attempting to overthrow the state" under Article 79.

In the US 2009 Human Rights Report on Vietnam, released by the State Department on Mar 11,2010, its writer wrote: "the government's human rights record remained a problem" where “The government increased its suppression of dissidents, arresting and convicting several political activists. … The government utilized or tolerated the use of force to resolve disputes with a Buddhist order in Lam Dong and Catholic groups with unresolved property claims. Workers were not free to organize independent unions, and independent labor activists faced arrest and harassment.”

In response to the latest ill-treatment against Cong Nhan, The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has issued a Press Release on Mar 12, condemning "the police intimidation of Cong Nhan". The Press release also points out excerpts from the said Report on Vietnam's poor record of Religious and Human Rights violations in 2009, urging the Obama Administration to name Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern.