Michael Nguyen, the Vietnamese American who spent more than two years of incarceration in Vietnam, has spoken to the media for the first time since his release and revealed some details of his arrest.
Speaking in a Zoom news conference on Wednesday, the 56-year-old U.S. citizen from Orange County, California said he was taken against his will while visiting Vietnam in July 2018, according to Reuters.
“I was essentially kidnapped, myself and three others, taken off a bus,” Nguyen said. “No reason was given to me. No credentials were presented to me. I was blindfolded, handcuffed and put into a car by people in civilian clothes.”
Nguyen spoke of the challenges he faced while being detained by the Vietnamese government, including cutting off all communication with his wife and four daughters for the first two months and constant interrogation that lasted for “16 hours at a time on many days,” according to Radio Free Asia.
Authorities also did not give him access to lawyers for 11 months, and he only faced trial almost a year after his arrest.
A day before the trial, the Vietnamese court provided him a public defender who later received a stack of papers “more than 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall,” with a statement not in his own words.
“They had written out a statement for me to sign and the public defender’s main job was to get me to sign a statement of words that were not even my own,” he said.
Nguyen, a businessman who ran a printing business in California, claimed he was silenced in court during his trial when he attempted to speak.
The man was visiting his family in Vietnam when he was taken by the authorities on suspicion of allegedly “attempting to overthrow the government.”
The U.S. Consulate was only made aware of his arrest after 12 days. They were monitored during their prison visit and could only discuss topics about “health and basic needs,” KCTV5 reported.
He was sentenced to 12 years in prison during his trial last year and was not allowed to present his own evidence in court.
Rep. Katie Porter said Nguyen was taken under a “broad statute of activities against the state… We weren’t able to find any supporting facts to support those charges… He received no information of the facts supporting the alleged case… and at trial he was not allowed to present evidence.”
Nguyen was released from Thu Duc Prison last week on “humanitarian grounds.” He declined to reveal any more details related to his incarceration or his release in fear that it could jeopardize the cases of other foreigners held in the prison.
He thanked the Vietnamese community in Orange County and the politicians who helped free him.
Featured Image Screenshot via Nua Vong Trai Dat TV