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Family of Vietnamese-American Dissident Welcomes Release


The family of a Vietnamese-American activist has welcomed his release from detention in Vietnam. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, where the daughter of former detainee Leon Truong, and the wife of another American still being held, appeared with members of Congress who vowed to continue efforts to obtain the release of other Americans detained in Vietnam.

On November 17, Leon Truong, a member of Viet Tan or the Vietnam Reform Party, which has been banned by Vietnamese authorities but also has members around the world, was arrested with five other activists.

Government-controlled media accused them of involvement in terrorist plots, an allegation the detainees and their families strongly denied.

After nearly a month in detention, Truong has now been released, and left Vietnam bound for the United States and a reunion with his family in Hawaii.

His daughter Lauren appeared in the U.S. Capitol with three members of Congress.

"When he was arrested he was in the process of putting leaflet[s] describing the principle of non-violent struggle into envelopes," said Lauren Truong. "Yet the Vietnam state-owned newspaper said he was charged with committing terrorist acts against the state of Vietnam. His release shows the Vietnamese government has nothing. They illegally detained him. My father is a democracy activist and so are the others still being detained."

Huong Ngo is the wife of another Vietnamese-American activist still held in Vietnam, California resident Nguyen Quoc Quan.

"It is so ironic that he is labeled by the Vietnamese government as a terrorist," said Huong Ngo. "My husband is not a terrorist. He is a peaceful democracy activist."

Tuesday's news conference was arranged by the Vietnamese American Public Affairs Committee and the Free Them Now Coalition, a group working for the release of detainees.

Also present was a representative of Viet Tan, the group describing itself as working for non-violent struggle against the government in Hanoi.

Three California lawmakers used the event to renew criticism of the Vietnamese government.

Democrat Loretta Sanchez defends the use of non-violent tactics by activists traveling to Vietnam.

"Your parent, your husband, were simply doing non-violent advocacy, letting the Vietnamese people know that they have and they should have the right to discuss and to change where they can their way of life," said Congresswoman Sanchez.

On human rights generally, Republican Congressman Ed Royce says lawmakers will continue efforts to pressure the government of Vietnam.

"Human Rights Watch is correct that this is the worst crackdown in 20 years in Vietnam," said Congressman Royce. "What does that tell us about the fact that the government in Vietnam is not keeping the agreements that it made in its discussions with the rest of the world about fair treatment of its citizens?"

However, Congress has not succeeded in passing legislation called the Vietnam Human Rights Act which supports democracy efforts.

The measure would condition increases in non-humanitarian U.S. aid to Vietnam on improvements in human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam.

Although it did pass the House earlier this year, Congressman Royce and Congresswoman Sanchez say the legislation, which was opposed in the past by a key Democrat, John Kerry of Massachusetts, still lacks sufficient votes in the Senate.

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