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U.S. activist says he was locked in cell for nine months in Vietnam

January 31, 2013 | 11:39 am

Nguyen
For nine months, Nguyen Quoc Quan was held in a 9-by-9 foot cell in Ho Chi Minh City, his only company a government monitor assigned to watch his every move.

The American democracy activist had no contact with the outside world, his family said, aside from a monthly visit from a member of the U.S. Consulate in Vietnam.

But late Wednesday, the Garden Grove resident was reunited with his family and greeted by more than 100 supporters who gathered at LAX to celebrate the return of the onetime-math teacher who has become a symbol to those pushing for democracy in Vietnam.

Three generations of family members waited for him at the gate: his mother-in-law, wife and two sons. They embraced in a group hug, tears streaming.

Nguyen said while grateful to be free, he worries about the dozens of political prisoners left behind in his homeland. “They are the people I cherish,” he said.

Nguyen was arrested in April and faced subversion charges in connection with his activism with the banned political party and democracy group Viet Tan.

Though the United Nations human rights office and other watchdogs say the banned party is a peaceful organization, Vietnam deems it a terrorist group.

The Orange County man had trained other activists in nonviolent resistance and computer skills and recruited people in Vietnam to his cause, according to a translated copy of his indictment.

Nguyen’s release comes amid a recent rash of charges against dissidents in Vietnam that have triggered global condemnation and have raised concerns about the country's increased strategic engagement with the United States.

Nguyen said Wednesday night that he thought constantly about his family during his detainment. He said that he wrote a poem for his wife but that he said his jailers would not deliver it.

"Since my dad was so dedicated to his cause, our belief in him kept us going,” said Khoa Nguyen, one of his sons and a UC Davis student. “It feels amazing to have him back.”

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-- Anh Do

Photo: Nguyen Quoc Quan and his wife, Mai Huong Ngo, embrace after his return to the United States. Nguyen's son Khoa is on the right. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

 

 

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