The decision followed meetings last month between President Barack Obama and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang. Mr. Obama pressed Vietnam to take concrete steps to improve its human rights record a major sticking point in ties between the countries.
Nguyen Phuong Uyen (21), was convicted of violating national security laws in May for distributing leaflets against the Communist Party and sentenced to six years. The appeals court on Friday changed that sentence to a three-year suspended one and released her. It halved the eight-year sentence against fellow activist, Dinh Nguyen Kha (25).
A lawyer who was in the court, Nguyen Thanh Luong, said judges cited their young age in the decision.
“This is a positive sign, and this should be encouraged,” Mr. Luong said Saturday.
Vietnam’s Communist leaders do not allow any challenge to their one-party rule and routinely arrest critics.
The rapid spread of the Internet in the country in the last five years has opened new avenues for dissent. This is alarming the government, which previously had a monopoly over most information. At least 46 people, many of them bloggers, have been convicted and sentenced for dissident activities this year.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said international pressure likely played a part in the appeal court’s decision.