Vietnam releases political dissident ahead of Obama visit
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Vietnam on Friday released from prison a Catholic priest who was a political dissident, just days before President Obama is scheduled to arrive in the country Sunday night, according to the Associated Press.

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The State Department celebrated the release of Rev. Nguyen Van Ly, who had been serving an eight-year prison term for spreading anti-government propaganda.

"We consistently have called for the release of Father Ly and all other prisoners of conscience in Vietnam," said State spokeswoman Gabrielle Price.

"We remain deeply concerned for all prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. We call on the government to release unconditionally all prisoners of conscience and allow all Vietnamese to express their political views peacefully without fear of retribution."

Ly has been in and out of prison and house arrest since 1977 for promoting political and religious freedoms, against the wishes of the Communist regime.

Vietnam’s jailing of political dissidents has dampened relations with U.S., and the move is being seen as a gesture of goodwill ahead of bilateral talks scheduled during Obama’s visit.