A Vietnamese court sentenced an American man for trying to overthrow the government of Vietnam on Tuesday. Michael Nguyen was also convicted of encouraging people to participate in protests with the intent of attacking government offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The state-owned newspaper Tuo Tre reported the 55-year-old was sentenced to prison for 12 years in Hanoi, Vietnam, according to USA Today. Two Vietnamese men, Huynh Duc Than Binh, 23, and Tran Long Phil, 21, were also convicted of the same charges alongside Nguyen. The court sentenced the two to 10 and 8 years respectively.
Nguyen Van Mieng, Michael Nguyen’s lawyer(no relationship) told Reuters he sought a reduced sentence for his client. “It’s such a long sentence,” he said. “Michael admitted guilt at the trial and asked the jury to reduce his sentence so that he could soon reunite with his family.”
According to the state paper, the three men were arrested last July. They were coming back from Hue in Central Vietnam where they were recruiting anti-government protestors. The planned protests did not take place.
“I’m disappointed with this outcome, and my heart aches for the Nguyen family and for our Orange County community,” Rep. Katie Porter told the Orange County Register.
Michael Nguyen is a married man with four children from Orange County, California. His wife, Helen Nguyen told the Orange County newspaper that the sentence was “a slap to the United States.” Additionally, she said that her youngest child cried out “why, why, why,” when she heard the news.
The U.S Embassy in Hanoi released a statement that said they were disappointed by the verdict and will “continue to raise our concerns regarding Mr. Nguyen’s case, and his welfare, at all appropriate levels.”
According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam ranks as one of the lowest countries in freedom of speech. Vietnam arrested more than a dozen people last year for anti-government activities.