One of Vietnam’s best known independent bloggers, Ta Phong Tan, has been released from prison after serving three years of a ten year jail term.
Reports said that she was taken to the airport and put on a flight to Los Angeles immediately after leaving the prison in Thanh Hoa Province south of the capital.
Ms Tan is a former policewoman and Communist Party member who riled the authorities with her blogs about human rights abuses and corruption in the legal system.
She was convicted in September 2012 on charges of “conducting propaganda against the state”. She had earlier been dismissed from her job and expelled from the Party.
Ta Phong Tan has staged a number of hunger strikes against the conditions of her detention and is reported to have suffered poor health.
Family members said she had been subject to abuse by other prisoners during her incarceration.
She suffered tragedy in 2012 when her mother, Dang Thi Kim Lieng, set herself on fire outside a government building in protest against her daughter’s arrest. She later died of her injuries.
There was no immediate word from the U.S. State Department, which has lobbied the Vietnamese government on behalf of Ms Tan and other political prisoners.
Her release was warmly welcomed by the California State Senator, Janet Nguyen.
“I’m elated to hear the news of blogger, journalist, and human rights advocate Ta Phong Tan’s release from prison in
Vietnam,” she tweeted.
She was reported to have gone to Los Angeles airport to greet the 47-year-old blogger.
Ms Tan was a co-founder of the Free Journalists Club in Vietnam with fellow blogger Nguyen Van Hai.
Mr Hai served six years in prison after his arrest on similar charges in 2008. He now lives in southern California.
The Vietnamese government has given no reason so far for the release of Ms Tan.
Observers say it could be partly because of her ill-health. Some suspect it may also be aimed at gaining favour in Washington shortly before President Barack Obama is due to visit Hanoi.
There are signs that the Communist authorities have eased up their repression of bloggers and other government critics this year as they seek to improve relations with the United States.
The Communist Party General-Secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, made an unprecedented official visit to Washington this year and made a pledge that human rights in Vietnam would be respected.