Vietnam frees American activist after 9 months
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - Vietnamese authorities on Wednesday released and deported an American pro-democracy activist detained since April, a move that contrasts with the long prison terms given to Vietnamese activists who are members of the same US-based dissident group.
The release of Nguyen Quoc Quan came after US diplomatic pressure and removes an obvious thorn in relations between the former enemies. Both countries are trying to strengthen their ties in large part because of shared concerns over China's emerging military and economic might, but American concerns over human rights in one-party, authoritarian Vietnam are complicating this.
Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Quan had "confessed to his crime" and asked for leniency to be reunited with his family. His wife, Huong Mai Ngo, said she doubted this was the case, suggesting that Hanoi was seeking a face-saving way of allowing him to go home.
"I don't believe it. They say that about everybody," she said via telephone from Sacramento, Calif. "If my husband was prepared to do that (confess), he could have been released nine months ago." Given the diplomatic sensitivities around the case, most observers had expected Quan to be released and quietly deported.