A U.S. citizen detained in Vietnam since July without access to any lawyers will go on trial at the end of June for “activity against the People’s government,” according to Article 109 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, his family and supporters said in a statement on Monday.
Michael Nguyen disappeared on July 6, 2018 while visiting friends and relatives in Vietnam, and his whereabouts and condition remained unknown for more than three weeks.
On July 31, the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City confirmed that Nguyen had been arrested and was being held at a detention center in the city while under investigation.
The family’s statement said Nguyen, a married father of four school-age daughters, would go on trial June 24-25 in Ho Chi Minh City.
“During the first 10 months of his detention, he has been denied access or the ability to see or speak to any family members, and was unable to meet with any lawyers or legal representation,” said the statement, which said the investigation had wrapped up in mid-May.
“The fact that Michael has been denied access to any lawyers or legal counsel for the past 10 months, his family feels he is severely disadvantaged and unable to properly defend against any accusations against him,” the statement said.
“Because he and his family have not even been formally advised of the actual charges or accusations against him, he has also been denied the time to properly address any alleged claims against him,” it said. He is expected to be represented by an attorney appointed by the legal system in Vietnam, it added.
Lawyer Nguyen Van Mieng, who represents Huynh Duc Thanh Binh, another defendant detained along with Nguyen, told RFA he was told the trial would be held on June 24-25.
“According to the prosecutor’s report, Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen came back to Vietnam and contacted some people to take pictures and film protests. One example is the protest in June 10, 2018. The purpose is to make video clips to post online,” said Mieng.
According to prosecutor’s report, Nguyen, Binh and Tran Long Phi were arrested on July 14, 2018, a little over a month after they took part in the June protests.
On June 10, protests erupted across Vietnam in opposition to two bills, one regarding special economic zones (SEZ) and the other about cybersecurity.
Monday’s statement said “his family believes he is innocent of any charges and may be lumped together with Vietnamese citizens who may have previously protested ground water contamination.”
“With the international community watching, including dozens of U.S. Senators and Congressmen, it is Michael’s family’s hope and expectation that the government of Vietnam will uphold proper international standards of trials and justice,” said the statement.
In February, Nguyen’s wife Helen Nguyen, attended President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, hoping to raise awareness about her husband’s case.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Written by Paul Eckert.