Capital-area man faces terror charge in Vietnam

By Stephen Magagnini – smagagnini@sacbee.com

May 10, 2008

Sacramento area engineer and pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan is scheduled to go on trial in Vietnam on Tuesday on charges of terrorism.

He was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in November for distributing pro-democracy leaflets and initially was held on immigration charges of entering Vietnam using a false passport.

Nguyen Quoc Quan, shown with his wife, Ngo Mai Huong, was arrested in November in Ho Chi Minh City (Sacramento Bee file, 2007)

His wife, who lives in Elk Grove, said Friday she’s relieved he finally is getting a trial but is alarmed by the terrorism charge.

“When I received the news I couldn’t sleep the whole night; I’m so nervous,” said Ngo Mai Huong. “I felt happy, but I’m worried they’re going to put him in jail for a couple of years.”

Nguyen, an engineer and father of two sons, went to Vietnam last November as a member of Viet Tan, the international Vietnamese Reform Party, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by Vietnam.

Nguyen, 54, and other Viet Tan members were planning to distribute 7,000 leaflets promoting nonviolent protest in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and the pro-democracy movements that transformed Eastern Europe.

The Vietnamese government took the pamphlets and said in a statement Nguyen “was assigned by the Viet Tan … to conduct anti-government activities in association with other elements.”

Angela P. Aggeler, first secretary for press and cultural affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, told The Bee: “We were disappointed to learn that the charge against him is terrorism as we are unaware of any information that would support such a charge.

“U.S. officials both here in Vietnam and in Washington have repeatedly called for the release of any individual for peacefully expressing his or her views and we have urged them to release Dr. Quan and that he be allowed to return to the United States as swiftly as possible,” Aggeler said.

U.S. consular officials plan to attend the trial.

For weeks, the Vietnamese government held Nguyen without comment, then charged him with entering Vietnam on a forged Cambodian passport.

But this week, Vietnamese Forein Ministry Ministry spokesman Le Dung said Nguyen and two other Viet Tan activists would be tried on terrorism charges.

Angelina Trang Do, a Viet Tan activist based in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said Nguyen would go on trial for Article 84, “terrorism and propaganda against the state.”

“They used the same article on other peaceful democracy activists in previous cases to put them behind bars,” said Do.

The best-case scenario is for Nguyen is to be deported to the United States, which the Vietnamese government has done in similar cases involving Vietnamese Americans, Do said.

“Leon” Van Ban Truong, a Viet Tan activist from Hawaii arrested in Ho Chi Minh City the same time as Nguyen, was released and deported Dec. 13 after 25 days in jail.

Another pro-democracy activist arrested for distributing about 4,000 leaflets in Ho Chi Minh City in August 2006, Do Thanh Cong of San Jose, was held for 38 days and then released without trial.

“I believe thy will release Dr. Nguyen soon – they charged me with the same charge,” Do said. “I went on a hunger strike for 38 days.”

Do said he’s the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, which is sympathetic to Viet Tan. He said if Nguyen isn’t released, it’s because the Vietnamese government “wants to send a message, ‘Don’t mess with us’ – they won’t tolerate any opposition.”

News – Capital-area man faces terror charge in Vietnam – sacbee.com

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