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Mideast-inspired dissident held in Vietnam

A veteran Vietnamese dissident has been arrested, official media said Monday, after he called for a Middle East-style uprising in the one-party state.

Nguyen Dan Que is being held for further investigation after allegedly calling for the communist government's overthrow, the Vietnam News reported.

Que, who was born in 1942, was arrested at his Ho Chi Minh City home on Saturday, the Vietnam News said.

During a raid on his house, police allegedly seized many documents related to anti-government activities, including an "appeal to all people" which called on the public to rise up against the government, the report said.

"Let's take to streets to dismantle the Politburo!" Que said in one of his recent communiques, obtained by AFP.

He urged young people to "take advantage of the democracy movements in Africa and the Middle East" and added: "Assemble for demonstrations."

Popular uprisings this year have shaken governments throughout the Middle East, toppling long-ruling regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and creating jitters among authoritarian governments further afield, including in China.

A foreign diplomat said that, apart from Que's appeal, there has been "nothing really" in the way of calls in Vietnam for popular unrest inspired by the Middle East turmoil.

But that "doesn't mean they're not scared", he said, referring to the communist government. The diplomat requested anonymity.

It is Que's fourth arrest in 33 years.

Que, a physician, was arrested in 1990 for his involvement in a political reform movement and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was granted amnesty and was released in 1998 on the understanding that he would be resettled in the United States, but he decided to stay in Vietnam.

He spent several months in prison in 2004-2005 on a charge of possessing anti-regime documents.

His first arrest, after calling for a multi-party political system, came in 1978 just three years after the communist victory in the Vietnam War.

In 1990 Que became an international member of Amnesty International, the group's first in Vietnam.

London-based Amnesty on Monday said it was shocked at his latest arrest.

"Dr Que is a staunch and peaceful defender of human rights and free speech, for which he has paid a heavy price," the group said, calling for his immediate release.

Amnesty said more than 20 activists have been jailed in Vietnam over the past year.

Vietnam's communist rulers re-affirmed in January that they are "determined" not to allow political pluralism.

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