Cablegate: Viet Tan Trial Results in Releases; Amcit to Be Deported
DE RUEHHM #0479/01 1360507
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 150507Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4466
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3052
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4690
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000479
STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/AWH AND CA/OCS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC PHUM PREL PGOV VM
SUBJECT: VIET TAN TRIAL RESULTS IN RELEASES; AMCIT TO BE DEPORTED
REF: Hanoi 0065 and previous
1. (SBU) Summary: Amid heavy security, Viet Tan activists Nguyen
Quoc Quan, Nguyen The Vu and Nguyen Quoc Hai were tried by the
HCMC People's Court on May 13 and sentenced under Article 84 of
the Vietnamese Penal Code, which deals with crimes directly
related to terrorism. American citizen Nguyen Quoc Quan received
a sentence of six months (with credit for time served) and
immediate deportation, which could be as early as May 17.
Vietnamese citizen Nguyen The Vu was sentenced to five months
and 26 days, and was released immediately after the trial.
Thai-Vietnamese citizen Nguyen Hai (aka Somsak Khunmi) was
sentenced to nine months, and will be eligible for release in
three months. All three were detained on November 17, 2007 for
planning to distribute pro-democracy pamphlets in Ho Chi Minh
City. End summary.
2. (SBU) During a six hour long trial on May 13 in Ho Chi Minh
City, Nguyen Quoc Quan, Nguyen The Vu and Nguyen Hai (aka Somsak
Khunmi) were all present as the judge and procurator read the
charges against them. Security around the court was very heavy,
with security barriers and police in riot gear surrounding the
court house. Conoff and ConGen staff attending the trial were
required to leave their cell phones at the door and witnessed
the proceedings on a closed-circuit TV in an adjacent court
room. No foreign reporters were present at the trial.
Nguyen Quoc Quan's Testimony
3. (SBU) Nguyen Quoc Quan was questioned for almost an hour,
primarily taken up by the prosecutor reading a long list of
Quan's activities with the U.S.-based Viet Tan group and his
relationship with founder Hoang Co Minh (reftel). Quan said he
did write some kind of computer software that he sold
commercially to raise funds for Viet Tan activities and that he
also received USD $1500 from Viet Tan to carry out the
pro-democracy flyer campaign in HCMC. Quan said he worked for
Viet Tan's financial committee, but he declined to give the
court names of other members when asked.
4. (SBU) Quan also stated that he entered Vietnam illegally
because he wanted to counter reports that he had been barred
from entering Vietnam because of his activism. He admitted to
drafting some of the information in the pro-democracy leaflets
the group was planning to distribute, but denied he was involved
in any activities related to trying to overthrow the government.
Quan said instead that he was involved in an effort to "help
the Vietnamese people govern themselves better." The Ho Chi
Minh City People's Court found Quan guilty and sentenced him to
six months, including time served. Since May 17 will mark
exactly six months since Quan's November 2007 arrest, GVN
contacts anticipate Quan will be deported on May 17 or May 18.
ConGen is working with Quan's family in coordinating his return.
Nguyen The Vu
5. (SBU) Vietnamese national Nguyen The Vu told the court he was
working for his brother in Norway and that his father and three
brothers also helped in the envelope stuffing effort. Vu's
father and three brothers were also present as observers at the
court and each briefly affirmed their involvement with Viet Tan.
Vu's brothers, Nguyen The Khiem and Nguyen Viet Trung were also
arrested in November 2007, but were later released without
charges. Vu plead guilty to the charges and blamed his actions
on his "ignorance and immaturity." Vu was sentenced to five
months and 26 days, exactly the amount of time he had been in
detention. He was released immediately after the trial.
Nguyen Quoc Hai (aka Somsak Khunmi)
6. (SBU) The prosecution also relayed a long history of Nguyen
Quoc Hai's involvement with Viet Tan, which they alleged dated
back into 1980s. Hai admitted he had previously "led about 100
people into Vietnam" many years ago, but stated that he was
"just stuffing envelopes for the money" last November and
claimed he did not know what the flyers contained. Hai was
sentenced to nine months in prison, including time served. He
should be released in July. (Note: Though several media and Viet
Tan reports have referred to Hai as a Thai citizen named Somsak
Khunmi, Vietnamese authorities said they could not confirm his
Thai citizenship with Thai authorities and maintain he is a
Vietnamese national. Hai identified himself as a Vietnamese
national during the trial. End note.)
7. (U) Vietnam News Agency (the national wire service), major
Vietnamese dailies and online news services covered the trial
and sentencing. Many featured story titles like, "Ho Chi Minh
City People's Court Sentences Terrorists," drawing connections
HO CHI MIN 00000479 002 OF 002
between the three and Viet Tan which was consistently described
as a terrorist group. Several international wire services also
covered the story, drawing on post and Department guidance.
Unsurprisingly, it was broadly picked up -- particularly by
Southern California outlets.
8. (SBU) Comment: We have quietly but persistently pushed the
GVN at a high level for a resolution of Nguyen Quoc Quan's case,
which has attracted widespread attention. His imminent release
and departure from Vietnam will be a positive step. At the same
time, the GVN's continued use of catch-all provisions such as
Article 84 of the Vietnamese Penal Code on crimes directly
related to terrorism, in prosecuting individuals for the
peaceful expression of their political ideas remains a
problematic issue that we will continue to raise.
9. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.