US Lawmakers Call on Vietnam to Release Detained American Citizen

Congressional representatives from California called on Vietnam this week to free a U.S. citizen detained for more than a month, at the same time urging U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to exert diplomatic pressure to help the father of four return home.

In a statement released on Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Representatives Mimi Walters, J. Luis Correa, and Alan Lowenthal urged Pompeo to do what he can to ensure that Michael Nguyen, a resident of California's Orange County, return safely to his family without delay.

We stand ready to assist you in this effort and appreciate your attention to this matter, the U.S. lawmakers wrote.

Nguyen, a 54-year-old father of four from California, disappeared on July 6 while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam, and his whereabouts and condition were unknown for more than three weeks.

On July 31, the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City Franc Shelton confirmed that Nguyen had been arrested and was being held at a detention center in the city while under investigation for activity against the People's government, according to Article 109 of Vietnam's Penal Code.

We believe, in fact, that Mr. Nguyen was unfairly caught up in a Vietnamese government crackdown on domestic dissidents, the California members wrote in their Aug. 9 statement. Alarmingly, it is possible that Michael could be detained for multiple months with no formal charges made against him.

Though U.S.-Vietnam relations have improved in recent years, Vietnam's human rights record remains deeply troubling, they said, calling Nguyen's case an egregious example of Vietnam's troubling history of arbitrary arrest.

Many fear for his safety, they said.

Vietnam has seen large-scale protests against proposed government policy in recent months during which another U.S. citizen, William Nguyen, was beaten by police and detained along with other protesters on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon.

Following a half-day trial on July 20, the 32-year-old graduate student was found guilty of disturbing public order and was expelled from Vietnam, weeks after Secretary of State Pompeo traveled to the one-party communist country and urged government officials to quickly resolve the case.

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