SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Michael Nguyen of Orange County spoke out on Wednesday about his experience being incarcerated in Vietnam for two years for what the government described as an attempt to overthrow the state.
He said during a press conference with reporters that he was “blindfolded, handcuffed and put into a car by people in civilian clothes.”
“I was detained and interrogated for 16 hours at a time on many days,” Nguyen continued.
The U.S. Consulate was not made aware of his arrest in Ho Chi Minh City until 12 days later, he said when he was able to meet with them they were monitored and could only discuss “health and basic needs.”
Nguyen — who ran a printing business in California and was primarily the family’s caregiver to his four daughters — was visiting family in June 2018 and then arrested.
He said he wasn’t allowed to provide evidence, he was sentenced to 12 years behind bars.
The Vietnamese-American returned to his Orange home on Sunday after being separated from his wife and children. During his imprisonment, he was being championed by local leaders, such as Rep. Katie Porter.
“I love my daughters,” Nguyen said. “I love my wife. This was very stressful, but I also knew I had to be strong. I know my community is strong. I know even more that my family is very strong. What I couldn’t possibly know was the determination of so many people in our government and my family, who would continue to fight for me for such a long period of time.”
Nguyen said he encountered other people from various countries who were also incarcerated, but without receiving the support that he had.
“Many of them did not have people back home fighting for them. Maybe they don’t know how, or come from a country that does not have the freedoms we have here in America. Maybe they don’t have elected officials who will fight for them as I did. Many of these people suffered even more than I did,” Nguyen said.
While Nguyen was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison, Rep. Katie Porter said all U.S. officials could determine was that Nguyen was arrested 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.”
Local officials, like Porter, have been criticizing Vietnam for arresting Nguyen and accusing the country of violating free speech and discouraging democracy.
Nguyen thanked Porter, as well as Reps. Alan Lowenthal, Lou Correa, Harley Rouda, Brad Sherman, Al Green of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida.
Nguyen also expressed gratitude to the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrunk, who he said was also critical in his release, alongside former Republican Reps. Ed RFoyce and Mimi Walters.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)