A Vietnamese court has ordered a five-year reduction in the prison sentence of a long-time dissident, Catholic priest Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly. Father Ly, 57, was sentenced to 13 years in jail in late 2001 for the crime of undermining national unity and two years for breaching the conditions of his house arrest. That detention followed his call on the United States to postpone granting normal trade relations to Vietnam until greater religious freedoms were allowed. Father Ly was denounced as a traitor by the authorities and the trade agreement went ahead. A court in Ha Nam province, south of the capital, Hanoi, granted the reduction to 10 years' jail for good behaviour. But it is likely the authorities would have agreed to the change, state media reported. There have been several recent overtures to religious leaders that some observers see as the government softening its hard line on religious dissidents. But at the same time there have been new party decisions that hardened control of the handful of approved religious movements. Last month, dissident monk Thich Quan Do, an official in the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), was released from detention in Ho Chi Minh City. The leader of the UBCV, Thich Huyen Quang, who still lives under official restraints, was shown on state television in April meeting the Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai. But if these cases are looked at alongside the treatment of political dissidents, it is not clear whether they are efforts at rapprochement. Last month a pro-democracy campaigner, Pham Hong Son, became the latest internet user to be sent to jail. He was sentenced to 13 years for offences including his translation of a US State Department article on democracy. On Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists said officials had offered to release journalist Nguyen Dan Que, who had called for press freedom, but only if he promised to leave the country. His brother, Nguyen Quoc Quan, told the committee that a similar offer had been refused in 1998 because 'exile is not freedom'. The Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it had no information on the Que case, but that he would face court.