A court in Vietnam has decided to deport an American man who was detained last month at a protest.
William Anh Nguyen, 32, a Vietnamese-American, was charged with “causing public disorder” during his participation in a protest, according to the South China Morning Post. Protests arose after concerns that Chinese investors would claim long-term land leases in key economic development zones.
Nguyen’s day trial ended Friday, and he is expected to be released and “deported immediately.”
The state-run Ho Chi Minh City Law Newspaper said: “The jury acknowledged that the defendant admitted his illegal activities. Considering his sincerity, the court did not hand him a prison sentence.”
Although a video of Nguyen’s arrest shows blood on his head, Vietnam officials denied using forceful efforts against him.
— Saigonese (@VietNamTweeter) June 17, 2018
While assembly is constitutionally protected right in Vietnam, police typically break up protests.
Public disorder charges in Vietnam can carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.
According to state media, Nguyen was “gathering and causing trouble” amid protests. He was accused of encouraging other protesters to climb barricades.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “I’m tremendously pleased that American citizen William Nguyen will return home to his family from #Vietnam.”
I’m tremendously pleased that American citizen William Nguyen will return home to his family from #Vietnam.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 20, 2018
During recent meetings with Vietnam officials in Hanoi, Pompeo requested a “speedy resolution” to Nguyen’s case. His trial came two weeks later.
This week, 19 lawmakers sent a letter to Pompeo asking for his assistance with Nguyen’s release.
The letter said: “As elected representatives of Mr. Nguyen’s family and the greater Vietnamese-American community, we remain very concerned about the seriousness of the pending charges and the sentence he faces.”
Nguyen was among dozens of protesters arrested in a multi-city protest that sparked violence in the province of Binh Thuan. At least six protesters were jailed for violent encounters with police.
Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International USA, said: “We are pleased that William Nguyen will be reunited and returning home with his family. However, we don’t believe he should have been detained and charged in the first place for freely expressing himself and exercising his right to protest.”
Rep. Jimmy Gomez also released a statement on Nguyen’s release.
“I take great comfort in knowing that my constituent, William Nguyen, will soon be reunited with his family after his harrowing ordeal in Vietnam,” he said.
“The sheer determination and resolve exhibited by the Nguyen family during this traumatic experience was nothing short of inspiring,” Gomez added.