Vietnam convicts, deports US man who joined protest

William Nguyen from Houston Texas was arrested June 10 during protests in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City against a proposed law on special economic zones that many say would benefit Chinese investors

Will Nguyen, 32, was arrested on June 10 by police in Ho Chi Minh City, where he was taking part in protests against the Vietnamese government's plans to establish special economic zones that demonstrators feared would be dominated by Chinese interests.

The Texas-born Yale graduate was accused of trying to damage a fence and flip over police vehicles on the main road to the airport.

Pompeo visited Vietnam in early July and called for "a speedy resolution to his case" in meetings with senior Vietnamese leaders, according to the State Department.

"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", said the letter, reviewed by Reuters.

A college friend of Nguyen, Kevin Webb, said in a phone interview Friday morning that Nguyen had already left Vietnam by plane with his family, who had attended the trial. It's unclear if they will demand a response by the USA, but Victoria Nguyen told ABC News last week there should be human rights sanctions on the country's government: "He was beaten and dragged..." In June, ABC13 spoke to Nguyen's family who said he was a Yale alum who was now studying public policy in Singapore. Despite prevailing anti-Chinese sentiment in many parts of the country, Vietnam has growing economic ties to the major power to its north - something the USA has been competing with.

After demonstrations against the land concession proposal spread to several cities throughout Vietnam in June, authorities arrested dozens of protesters and have since sentenced six people to up to two-and-a-half years in prison. Nguyen can later be seen standing on the bed of a police truck as it drives off.

Video footage of the protest shows men in civilian clothing and surgical masks, believed to be plainclothes police, restraining Nguyen-whose head is covered in blood-and dragging him away from the area.

State media reports said Nguyen was "gathering and causing trouble" during the protests and was filmed urging others to climb over barricades. His actions "seriously violated public order and badly affected security order, social safety and needs to be dealt with seriously", it alleged.

"He is a proud Vietnamese-American, and passionate about his studies, specifically Southeast Asian studies, in which he majored", his sister, Victoria Nguyen, said in an email to The New York Times, at the time of his arrest.

A number of USA elected officials became involved in Nguyen's case, sending off letters to Pompeo, Vietnam's ambassador to the US and President Donald Trump.

USA lawmakers have been pushing for Nguyen's release since his detention on June 10.

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