Citizen Held in Vietnam Given 12-Year Prison Sentence
RFA – 06/24/2019
A Vietnamese court on Monday sentenced U.S. citizen Michael Nguyen to 12 years
in prison following his conviction in a half-day trial of activities “aimed at
overthrowing the state,” media and other sources said.
Nguyen, who had been held without access to
lawyers after disappearing on July 6, 2018 while visiting friends and relatives
in Vietnam, will be deported after his sentence has been served, sources said.
Two other men, Huynh Duc Thanh Binh and Tran
Long Phi, were convicted by the court in Ho Chi Minh City on the same charge and
handed prison terms of 10 years and eight years, respectively.
Government authorities had accused the three of
plotting with a previously unknown group to help incite protests that erupted
across Vietnam on June 10 in opposition to two controversial bills, one
regarding special economic zones (SEZ) and the other concerning cybersecurity.
Prosecutors also charged Nguyen and his
codefendants with preparing political leaflets, gasoline bombs, and slingshots
to use in attacking police forces during the protests, defense lawyer Nguyen Van
Mieng told RFA’s Vietnamese Service after the trial.
Speaking to RFA, Mieng—the attorney for Huynh
Duc Thanh Binh—described the sentences handed down as “harsh but not uncommon”
in cases involving organized political opposition to Vietnam’s one-party,
“The leader [in these cases] will usually get 15
years, while those who carry out their orders will often get less than 12
years,” Mieng said, adding that because the court viewed Nguyen as a
collaborator of the group, he had been given a 12-year term.
“According to what I said in court, though, this
whole case was a sham,” Mieng said.
“These men were set up by accusing them of
involvement in a group they had never even heard of.”
The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam on Monday said it
was disappointed in the sentence given to Nguyen, a married 55-year-old resident
of California with four school-age children at home.
“We are disappointed by today’s verdict,” an
embassy spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to Reuters news agency. “We will
continue to raise our concerns regarding Mr. Nguyen’s case, and his welfare, at
all appropriate levels.”
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Channhu Hoang. Written in
English by Richard Finney.