Vietnamese Singer Released From Prison Four Months Early

Linked to an overseas opposition group, Tran Vu Anh Binh was jailed for six years, with a year spent in pretrial detention counted toward his sentence.

Tran Anh Vu Binh is shown at home following his release from prison, May 21, 2017.

A Vietnamese Catholic jailed since 2011 for singing politically sensitive songs was released this week from prison four months before finishing his six-year term, sources said.

Tran Vu Anh Binh was freed on May 21 and returned to his home in Ho Chi Minh City, Binh told RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an interview.

“I feel elated, but now I am like a fish that has been on the shore for a long time,” he said. “It’s back in the water now, but it certainly can’t swim as fast as it would like.”

Arrested on Sept. 19, 2011, Binh was sentenced in October 2012 to six years in jail for producing “propaganda against the state” after allegedly contributing to a blog run by Patriot Youth, an overseas political opposition group.

Several popular singers in Vietnam have performed music by Binh, who is a choir member with the Catholic Redemptorist Order and has written songs protesting against the imprisonment of dissidents.

The year spent in jail before Binh’s trial and sentencing was counted as part of his sentence, and he was freed four months ahead of his scheduled release.

During his time in prison, Binh tried not to think about his eventual release or believe anything he was told by prison authorities, he said.

“Instead, I always prayed and entrusted everything to God,” he said.

Because he was reluctant to disturb his family or other relatives, he asked his family not to come get him up following his release, he said.

“People from the Catholic choir also rented a car to come pick me up, but my family told them I didn’t want them to do this, and so they stopped.”

Hoping to resume his involvement in music, Binh said he looks forward to singing again in his church’s choir.

“Father Le Quang Uy now introduces me to everyone by saying, ‘Binh is a member of the choir, having just served a prison term under the communists.”

“Please pray for me so that now I don't forget the shared goals of the Vietnamese people,” Binh said.

“I am afraid I may become distracted, weakened by temptation.”

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in English by Richard Finney.