AN American has been deported from Vietnam after being detained for more than a month for joining a public protest in the repressive communist state last month.
William Anh Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese heritage, was detained in June for attending a demonstration against proposed special economic zones, which many in Vietnam fear will see excessive investment from Chinese companies.
More than 100 people after the protests which were held across Vietnam. One video posted to YouTube showed Nguyen being beaten and violently dragged by police officers. He was later charged with disrupting public order – an offence for which he could have faced seven years in prison.
Late last week, however, a Ho Chi Minh court ruled that because he is a foreigner and had expressed regret for his actions, Nguyen would be released, reported state media.
“The jury acknowledged that the defendant admitted his illegal activities. Considering his sincerity, the court did not hand him a prison sentence,” reported the Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper as quoted by Reuters.
The 32-year-old Yale graduate is now safely in Singapore according to a dedicated Twitter account established by his supporters.
“Raise a glass in celebration, think back on the journey we’ve all been through and stay tuned for statements from Willy himself in the next week or so, once he has rested and gotten over the shock of his ordeal,” they wrote.
Will is in Singapore! July 20th is henceforth Free Will Nguyen Day! Raise a glass in celebration, think back on the journey we've all been through —
— Free Will Nguyen (@FreeWillNguyen1) July 21, 2018
Nguyen is set to graduate from a masters program at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. His sister Victoria tweeted on Sunday that the pair would be heading back to the US in August.
It’s hard for me to even describe how I feel at this point, or ever, but I will try. First&foremost, I’m desperately grateful for this moment, for everybody that took a hand in this, for my life, for William’s life—I don’t think there is any answer sufficient enough to describe..
— Victoria Nguyen (@V_AlwaysNguyens) July 22, 2018
“We are pleased that William Nguyen will be reunited and returning home with his family,” said Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International USA.
“However, we don’t believe he should have been detained and charged in the first place for freely expressing himself and exercising his (human) right to protest.”
The case had threatened to spark a diplomatic row between Hanoi and Washington, with dozens of US congresspeople twice writing to the Vietnamese ambassador to the United States calling for his release.
“As a native Texan and a United States citizen, Mr. Nguyen is entitled to fair and humane treatment by your government,” a letter to Ambassador H.E. Pham Quang Vinh said, signed by members of Congress including Ted Cruz, Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised his case with Vietnamese authorities during a visit to the country earlier in July. Nevertheless, Nguyen’s case was brought to trial before the decision to deport him after a one-day trial.
Elected representatives in the United States publicly welcomed the decision.
My constituent, Will Nguyen, has been released by the Vietnamese Goverment after being imprisoned since June 10th for participating in a peaceful protest. He will soon be reunited with his friends and family. Welcome home. @V_AlwaysNguyens @FreeWillNguyen1 #FreeWilly https://t.co/RhX4H70pFc
— Jimmy Gomez (@JimmyGomezCA) July 20, 2018
I join the strong, vibrant Vietnamese-American community in the Seventh District in celebrating Will Nguyen’s release! My full statement : https://t.co/uk1JWbqIDh #TX07 #Houston pic.twitter.com/dp3HXv5N9n
— John Culberson (@CongCulberson) July 20, 2018
“I am elated and relieved that William is coming home,” wrote California Congressman Alan Lowenthal.
William Nguyen is finally coming home. My statement: pic.twitter.com/BWc29q0O7M
— Rep. Alan Lowenthal (@RepLowenthal) July 20, 2018
“I have no doubt that his family’s perseverance, the hard work of the State Department, especially Ambassador Kritenbrink and his team in Vietnam, and the pressure from many Members of Congress, helped result in today’s outcome.”