- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 22, 2005

A federal grand jury in the District has returned an indictment against a Vietnamese immigrant accused of punching a high-ranking Vietnamese diplomat who was visiting Washington in June.

Tuan Phuoc Le, 33, of Atlanta, has been charged with assault on a foreign official and faces up to three years in prison and deportation to Vietnam if he is found guilty.

The grand jury returned the indictment Sept. 8, said Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the District. A date for Mr. Le’s arraignment has not been set.

“It should happen fairly soon,” Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Le is accused of punching the face of Nguyen Quoc Huy, vice chairman of the prime minister’s office for the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, during a protest at the Willard InterContinental Hotel on June 21, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the District.

His case has attracted support from the Vietnamese community in the United States, many of whom had suffered under Vietnam’s communist regime.

A defense fund established for Mr. Le and Jerry Kiley, a Vietnam veteran accused of throwing wine in the direction of Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai at a June 21 banquet, has raised $55,000.

Much of the support for Mr. Le focuses on his potential deportation to Vietnam, where human rights advocates have said he likely would be oppressed and imprisoned.

“There is still evidence of torture and abuses of nationals for those who oppose the regime and government,” said Parastoo Zahedi, Mr. Le’s Vienna, Va.-based immigration attorney. “Based on that, I would say he certainly would be subject to that.”

Quyen Le, who has helped in the defense fund and housed Mr. Le during his trips from Atlanta to the District, said much of the money likely will be used to pay for a defense attorney for Mr. Le, who has been represented by federal public defender David Bos.

“As a public defender, [Mr. Bos] is working very hard,” Quyen Le said. “We think we need some people who could spend more time to study the case.”

Quyen Le said the fund will stop taking donations next Friday because its goal has been reached and donors should focus on supporting hurricane relief efforts.

Mr. Le is a legal permanent resident of the United States who emigrated from Vietnam in 1993.

Miss Zahedi said Mr. Le obtained his permanent residency because his father was a U.S. Marine serving in Vietnam. It was there where Mr. Le’s father met Mr. Le’s mother.

He also faces deportation based on a conviction for assault in California. Miss Zahedi said that case has been continued to Oct. 20 in hopes that immigration officials will agree that Mr. Le has claims to being a U.S. citizen.

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