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VIETNAM WILL RELEASE 5,219 PRISONERS IN NATIONAL DAY AMNESTY PROGRAM

Vietnam announced its largest amnesty in years Friday -- the release of more than 5,000 prison inmates, including American expatriates and at least two top dissidents.

The U.S. nationals and an unspecified number of other foreigners are among 5,219 prisoners to be freed before Wednesday's National Day, the government said.

The only confirmed names on the list are dissidents Doan Viet Hoat and Nguyen Dan Que, whose cases were cited by the European Parliament, which said their convictions should be quashed immediately.

Vietnam denies it holds anyone for political or religious beliefs, only those who have broken the law.

Human-rights groups counter that a number of people are jailed for violating the all-encompassing national security law or the strict regulation of religious activities.

A U.S. Embassy statement welcomed the amnesty and said Hoat and Que have been "accepted for resettlement in the United States." But the embassy said it could not divulge who else was being released, citing American privacy laws.

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