Vietnam frees American after US pressure

Will Nguyen was accused of inciting violence.

A Vietnamese court has ordered the immediate deportation of American citizen, William Nguyen, on a charge of disturbing public order.

It said it gave a lenient sentence because it was the defendant’s first offence and he had expressed repentance for his actions.

The decision follows mounting pressure from US congressmen and the state department for the release of the Texas born Vietnamese-American graduate student.

Nguyen could have faced a jail sentence of up to seven years for allegedly inciting violent acts during a mass protest in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10, one of a number of demonstrations that swept through major cities.

Six participants in more violent protests in Binh Thuan province received jail sentences of up to three years last week.

“Instigating violence”

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on June 10 and 11 to protest against plans to grant extended leases to foreign companies in new economic zones. Some also denounced new cyber security laws that will impose further restrictions on internet freedom.

Prosecutors said that Nguyen had found out about the planned demonstrations shortly after his arrival in Ho Chi Minh City on June 9 and had discussed with other users how to instigate violence during the protests.

They said that he had encouraged protesters to throw rocks at police and their vehicles.

Video footage of the protest had shown Nguyen helping protesters climb through stalled traffic. He was later shown with blood on his face being dragged away by plainclothes officers.

The authorities accused unspecified organisations in foreign countries of helping to inspire the protests.

Nguyen apologised for his actions and promised not to repeat them in televised video footage, which human rights organisations said was coerced by police and part of a familiar tactic to intimidate and subdue government critics.

Rights groups said that Nguyen had taken part in peaceful demonstrations, which are technically legal under Vietnamese law, and had been beaten by police, wrongfully detained and then subjected to trial by a partial court that is subject to the dictates of the Communist party.