- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Jailed in Vietnam

Vietnam’s arrest of an American citizen on terrorism charges is drawing protests from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, human rights advocates in Paris and the man’s congressional representative in California.

Embassy officials this week visited Cong Thanh Do, who was born in Vietnam, at the prison where he is being held in Ho Chi Minh City and dismissed the communist government’s accusations that he plotted to attack the U.S. Consulate in the city formerly known as Saigon.

“We cannot see any evidence at the moment indicating that he was involved in any violent activities,” said embassy spokesman Louis Lantner.

Mr. Do’s congresswoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, called his imprisonment “outrageous.”

In Paris, the free-speech group Reporters Without Borders said the Vietnamese government arrested Mr. Do because he advocated democratic reform in his former homeland. Mr. Do was on a family visit when he was arrested on Aug. 14. The reporters group demanded that the government release him and two Vietnamese citizens, known by their pen names, Nguyen Hoang Long and Hyunh Viet Lang.

“These men have been punished for using the Internet to publicly express their disagreement with the political line of the sole party,” the reporters group said, referring to the Communist Party of Vietnam. “They are nonviolent democrats.”

The group called the charges against Mr. Do “a bizarre accusation that does not appear to be based on any real facts.”

The Vietnamese government has not commented on the arrests.

Mr. Do is a senior member of the People’s Democratic Party of Vietnam, which is banned in the Southeast Asian nation. He began a hunger strike on Friday, his family told Agence France-Presse.

In Washington, Mrs. Lofgren said she is doing “everything possible” to win his release.

“The Vietnamese government has a track record of human rights violations against people who work to bring freedom and democracy to Vietnam through peaceful means,” said Mrs. Lofgren, who represents the San Jose area.

“The Vietnamese government has taken the unprecedented step of imprisoning a United States citizen who states that he is being held solely because of his pro-democratic and nonviolent views.”

Iranian threat

A top U.S. diplomat rejected Iran’s claim that it needs to enrich uranium to develop civilian nuclear power plants, saying the country does not even have a nuclear reactor to fuel.

Ambassador Gregory Schulte, Washington’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), explained that the one nuclear reactor under construction in Iran will be fueled by Russia.

“So from a civil perspective, this doesn’t make sense, but there are serious questions when you look at this program from a military perspective,” he said in an interview with Radio Farda, part of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty network.

Mr. Schulte explained that the IAEA has evidence that questions Iran’s claim that it wants only to develop nuclear power. The evidence includes Iran’s connections to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the now-discredited Pakistani nuclear scientist who sold nuclear-weapons technology to Iran, which has a long record of supporting Islamic terrorism.

“There are questions about why [the Iranian government has] a document on fabricating nuclear-warhead components,” Mr. Schulte said. “There are questions about ties to the military and to their missile program.”

He added that the IAEA, after three years of “intensive verification work,” has concluded that the Iranians “are moving ahead step by step with determination to master the technology to produce the material for nuclear weapons.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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