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Vietnam accuses US activist of terror plot on American interests

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Friday September 8, 2006

Hanoi- Vietnamese authorities have accused a jailed US pro- democracy activist of plotting an attack on American interests in the country, the US ambassador said Friday. Cong Thanh Do, 47, a Vietnamese-born US citizen, has been held in detention since his arrest August 14, but Vietnam's government has refused to reveal what the charges against him are.

US Ambassador Michael Marine confirmed Friday night that authorities have told consular officials Do was suspected of plotting a terrorist attack against an unspecified US target.

"They were concerned that he was engaged in activities that might be a threat to a US interest in Vietnam," Marine said. "But we've seen no evidence that would support that. So, I believe that that is incorrect."

Vietnam's government spokesman Le Dung on Thursday acknowledged Do's arrest, but refused to say what Vietnamese law he is accused of breaking.

Human rights groups and a US congresswoman have decried Vietnam's detention of Do, a California resident who is a well-known advocate of free elections in Vietnam under the pen name "Nam Tran," as an unprecedented attempt to punish the free speech of a US citizen.

The Paris-based press-freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres called the idea that a Vietnamese-American would travel to Vietnam to attack US interests "a bizarre accusation which does not appear to be based on any real facts."

Do has no apparent links to US-based Vietnamese exile groups that have in the past advocated violence against Hanoi's communist, an RSF spokesman said, adding that such anti-communist groups also tend to be strongly pro-American.

Earlier this week, US Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren vowed to work to free Do, whose detention she called "outrageous."

"The Vietnamese government has now taken the unprecedented step of imprisoning a United States citizen who states that he is being held solely because of his pro-democratic, non-violent views," said Lofgren, the representative of Do's city of San Jose, California.

Two Vietnamese pro-democracy activists have also reportedly been arrested in addition to Do, although Vietnam would not confirmed that.

The communist country has recently cracked down on the "8406 Group," a newly formed dissidents' organization that calls on the ruling Communist Party to allow free elections.

Marine said he hopes a Vietnamese investigation into Do's activities would be complete soon "so that he can hopefully be set free and be allowed to return home to the United States."

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur