A U.S. citizen beaten and arrested in Vietnam last month for taking part in rare, large-scale protests will go on trial next week on charges of disturbing public order, state media said on Friday.
William Nguyen, a graduate student of Vietnamese descent from Houston, Texas, will go to trial on July 20 and could face a seven-year prison term if convicted, media reports said.
Nguyen was beaten by police and detained on June 10 in Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, after attending what began the day before as a peaceful protest over government plans to grant long-term leases to foreign companies operating in special economic zones (SEZs).
News of the proposed concessions had stirred public fears that the leases would go to Chinese-owned firms.
In tweets posted from the rallies, Nguyen had described clashes between citizens and the police.
But quoting the indictment against Nguyen, Vietnam’s state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said on Friday that the American student had also urged protesters to overrun police barricades as they marched toward the city center.
On June 18, Nguyen apologized on state television for his presence at the demonstrations and promised to stay away from protests in the future.
'Prepared for the worst'
Speaking on Friday to RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Nguyen’s sister Victoria Nguyen said that she was upset when a visit to Vietnam this week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to secure her brother’s release.
“How can you say that Vietnam and the U.S. have this great relationship and everything’s going great, when you know what they’re doing, and you’re not acknowledging that part of the whole human rights aspect?” she asked.
“So it’s upsetting, because you assume that the government’s going to stand up for you as a citizen, but they don’t.”
Throughout what she called the “turns and twists” of her brother’s case, she has always been “prepared for the worst,” she said.
“You know, it could be a fine and they’ll let him go, or it could be jail for several years, and it’s not really a due process with the Vietnamese court system.”
“I honestly don’t know what to expect,” she said.
Reported by An Nguyen for RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.