Cablegate: Vietnamese Pastor Tran Mai Released From Detention

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

071119Z Sep 04





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: a) HCMC 1123; b) HCMC 789

1. (SBU) We spoke with Pastor Tran Mai, at home and in good health
on September 7, and confirmed his release on September 6 after
eight days detention. The pastor said he was unclear as to why he
was detained at the Cambodia/Vietnam border on August 29 (ref a).
He stated that, as on previous occasions, he traveled to the U.S.
through Cambodia and then sought to return to Vietnam via the same
route. He did note, however, that this time he sought to enter
Vietnam using a local border gate and not at the usual
international border crossing (from where he presumably departed
Vietnam). The police told him that it was illegal for him to
enter Vietnam through a non-international border gate.

2. (SBU) According to the pastor, once in custody, the police did
not focus on his immigration violation, but on his religious
activities. The police pressed the pastor on his "frequent"
overseas travel, which organizations were sponsoring him and
whether he had links to groups or individuals in Cambodia -- he
said he had none. The police also quizzed Pastor Mai on his links
with detained Mennonite pastor/human rights activist Nguyen Hong
Quang as well as religious activities on the margins of the South
East Asia sporting games "SEA Games 22", which Vietnam hosted in
December 2003. (Note: during the SEA games, local authorities
detained 15 Christian missionaries for distributing unauthorized
leaflets with religious content to spectators in HCMC. Pastor
Tran Mai was detained for 24 hours during the police investigation
of the incident. Pastor Quang was arrested on June 8 at his home
in HCMC and remains in pre-trial detention. For more details on
Pastor Quang's arrest see ref b. End Note.)

3. (SBU) The pastor said that during his detention the police
treated him respectfully, although he was upset to be kept in the
same facility with common criminal suspects. He said that the
police kept all his personal belongings including his passport,
cell phone and Vietnamese ID card. In a separate conversation on
September 7, the pastor's wife told us that police officials had
instructed the pastor to check in with police officials in HCMC on
a daily basis.


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