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Vietnam Frees Dissident Priest Nguyen Van Ly Ahead of Obama’s Visit

Vietnam has granted early release from prison to a Catholic priest who is one of its most prominent dissidents, a move widely seen as a goodwill gesture before U.S. President Barack Obama visits on Sunday.

Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, center, is seen at a court room in Vietnam's central province of Thua Thien Hue in this image taken through close-circuit TV, on March, 30, 2007. AP

The Catholic Archdiocese of the central city of Hue reported on its webpage that it welcomed the return Friday of 70-year-old Father Nguyen Van Ly from prison.

Ly has served several long terms in prison or under house arrest for promoting political and religious freedoms in the communist nation. He has been serving an eight-year prison term since March 2007 after being convicted of spreading propaganda against the state.

Vietnam's persecution of dissidents has been a roadblock to warmer relations with the United States, from which it is seeking the lifting of an arms embargo.