Vietnam is deporting a United States citizen after being convicted of “disturbing public order” for joining a protest in Ho Chi Minh City.
Houston native William Nguyen was arrested on June 10 just a day after arriving in Vietnam as a tourist, Bloomberg reports.
He was apprehended by authorities while at a demonstration against proposed special economic zones that many Vietnamese citizens believe could lead to Chinese encroachment and cybersecurity legislation that would curtail freedoms online.
Nguyen, whose arrest brought global attention to Vietnam’s crackdown on public expression and internet freedoms, is expected to fly back to the U.S. immediately.
Along with Nguyen, six Vietnamese were arrested and later sentenced for up to 30 months in jail by a court in the southeastern province of Binh Thuan on July 12.
They were all convicted of “disturbing public order” for joining the protests in front of the local government’s headquarters on June 10-11.
Trinh Vinh Phuc, one of Nguyen’s lawyers, noted that his client faced a sentence of up to seven years in prison but received the lightest punishment possible at the conclusion of his trial in Ho Chi Minh City.
According to Phuc, his client has pledged not to contest the verdict. Nguyen, a graduate of Yale University, will even be allowed to return to Vietnam.
“Everyone is happy as the verdict satisfied the expectations of Will, his family, and the lawyers,” Phuc said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a request to the Vietnamese government for an immediate resolution of his case. Members of U.S. Congress have also called for his release.
“We are pleased that the case of U.S. citizen William Nguyen has been resolved,” U.S. Embassy Spokesperson James Thrower was quoted as saying. “We understand from the court’s decision that he will be deported after paying a fine. The United States has no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens.”
Vietnam’s quick resolution of the case is seen by many as proof of the country’s commitment to building closer economic ties with the U.S. being one of its largest trading partners.
Phuc noted that the verdict surprised many, adding that it “reflects the care about bilateral diplomacy.”