Cablegate: Potential P1 Refugees to Stand Trial for Espionage

Published: Tue 9 Sep 2003 01:18 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
091318Z Sep 03
E. O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoa, Mr. Nguyen Truc
Cuong and Mr. Nguyen Vu Viet -- the niece and nephews of
jailed Catholic priest Father Nguyen Van Ly -- will go on
trial in Ho Chi Minh City People's Court for "espionage" on
September 10. Under Article 80 of the Criminal Code,
"espionage" is defined as "collecting and distributing
documents and information to foreign countries to be used
against the Government of Vietnam." Referrals on behalf of
these three individuals for Vietnam's In-Country Priority
One (P1) refugee-processing program have been filed at the
Department. The niece is currently under house arrest,
while the two nephews are in jail. Consular officer met
with the niece and other immediate relatives on September 7.
They expressed strong interest in the P1 program. This case
has attracted some Congressional interest, and is being
closely monitored by ConGen and Embassy. End summary.
2. (SBU) On September 5, 2003, Post received via fax three
Vietnamese Priority One Referral Forms for Mrs. Nguyen Thi
Hoa (DOB:November 28, 1959), Mr. Nguyen Truc Cuong
(DOB:November 1, 1967) and Mr. Nguyen Vu Viet (DOB:February
24, 1975). The referrals were submitted by Boat People
S.O.S., at the request of Ms. Ngo Thi Hien, chairwoman of
the U.S.-based Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam.
Copies of these referral forms were faxed from Senator John
McCain's office to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, and forwarded
to ConGen HCMC the same day. The three individuals are
siblings, and are the niece and nephews of Father Nguyen Van
Ly, a Catholic priest who was sentenced and imprisoned by
the Vietnamese Government in 2002 for activities that "have
undermined the unity and stability of the nation."
3. (SBU) Upon receiving the referrals and after consultation
with the Embassy, the Consulate General informed the local
office of the Foreign Ministry in HCMC (External Relations
Office - ERO) that it intended to pursue the case. A
meeting was arranged for September 7, through an activist
Protestant house church pastor, who is also the self-
appointed legal representative of the family. The family
lives in Dong Nai Province, 25 kilometers northeast of Ho
Chi Minh City. In attendance at the meeting were the
Consulate's Refugee Resettlement Section acting chief, Mrs.
Nguyen Thi Hoa (niece and proposed beneficiary), Mrs. Nguyen
Thuy Uyen (wife of one of the nephews and indirect
beneficiary), various other family members, the self-
appointed legal representative, and his interpreter. The
ConGenoff was able to conduct the four-hour meeting without
interruption or hindrance by Vietnamese security or
surveillance officers.
4. (SBU) The niece and nephews were referred to the Vietnam
P1 program by Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang of Boat People S.O.S in
Falls Church, VA, via Ms. Ngo Thi Hien of the U.S.-based
Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam. There is no
date on the referral form. (Post Note: Ms. Ngo Thi Hien is
featured in the niece's story of what led to her original
5. (SBU) Father Ly's niece and nephews have indicated their
desire to apply for permanent resettlement in the United
States: Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoa in direct conversation with
ConGenoff on September 7, and Mr. Nguyen Vu Viet and Mr.
Nguyen Truc Cuong (who are under arrest) through their next
of kin - sister Nguyen Thi Hoa and Nguyen Thuy Uyen (wife of
Cuong) -- on the same date. The niece and nephews claim to
have been subjected to harsh and/or discriminatory treatment
within the past thirty-six (36) months. They claim to have
been targeted because of their religious activity and
beliefs and for their actual and imputed political opinions.
6. (SBU) Following is a summary of information gathered
during the September 7 meeting and three subsequent phone
A. Mrs. Nguyen Thi Hoa:
Mrs. Hoa said she had been arrested in June 2001 for
"spying." She also provided official Vietnamese documents
that listed this charge. She was detained from the time of
her arrest until October 2001. According to Mrs. Hoa, one
day after her uncle Father Ly's arrest on May 17, 2001,
Father Ly's mother (also Mrs. Hoa's grandmother) passed
away. A Ms. Doan Trang and Ms. Ngo Thi Hien in the U.S.
sent a total of $2300, as financial support for visiting
Father Ly (being held in detention in Hue) and building a
tomb for his mother. From that time on, Mrs. Hoa had
numerous communications with both women -- Ms. Doan Trang,
who apparently worked for a radio station in California, and
Ms. Ngo Thi Hien from the U.S.-based Committee for Religious
Freedom in Vietnam. Both women inquired about the welfare
of her priest uncle. Mrs. Hoa advised ConGenoff that she
had provided them information regarding Father Ly's
situation. She informed them that she had tried to visit
Father Ly in Hue. The Vietnamese Government had told her
that she could not meet him in person, but she was permitted
to leave extra food for him. Mrs. Hoa stated that she
herself had also initiated calls to the two women in
California, to talk about Father Ly's situation during this
one-month period.
On June 18, 2001, police surrounded the homes of Mrs. Hoa,
her brother Viet, and her mother, which are all adjacent to
each other in Thong Nhat district, Dong Nai Province, to
conduct a search. After the house search, police arrested
Mrs. Hoa and confiscated letters from overseas and documents
downloaded from the Internet by her brother Viet regarding
Father Ly's activities. Mrs. Hoa was released from
detention on October 25, 2001. Upon her release, the police
informed her that she would be kept under house arrest until
her case was resolved. Mrs. Hoa does not know what to
expect at the trial. She stated that the only time she has
gone to Ho Chi Minh City in the last two years was when HCMC
police were considering opening an investigation on her and
she was summoned for questioning. As late as July 2003,
Mrs. Hoa was being charged with "abuse of religious freedom
to harm the government." Mrs. Hoa stated that she had
orally repeated elements of Father Ly's speeches to personal
acquaintances, but had never disseminated written
Mrs. Hoa, a widow with five years of grade school education,
supports herself and her four children by running a small
shop out of her home. She said her business had suffered a
great deal due to her "status", because many of her
neighbors are afraid to associate with her.
B. Mr. Nguyen Truc Cuong:
Mr. Cuong was arrested in Quang Ngai province sometime in
June 2001, and subsequently was transferred to and remains
in Chi Hoa prison. He is a house painter who left high
school before graduating. A ConGenoff spoke with Mrs.
Nguyen Thuy Uyen (DOB:May 12, 1974) who married Cuong in
1995, at the home of Mr. Nguyen Van Dung, brother of her
husband. Mrs. Uyen stated that her family would like to be
considered for the P1 program, and she made that commitment
on behalf of her jailed husband.
According to Mrs. Uyen, her husband disappeared in June 2001
in Quang Ngai, on his way to Hue to try to visit Father Ly
in jail. This was following a telephone request from Mrs.
Doan Trang in the United States. Mrs. Uyen knew her husband
had been asked to do something by Ms. Doan Trang, but at the
time was unclear exactly what. (Post Note: Mrs. Uyen did
not appear to realize that Ms. Doan Trang worked for a radio
station.) Mrs. Uyen later learned that Cuong was arrested
after visiting and taking pictures of Patriarch Thich Huyen
Quang (the leader of the outlawed United Buddhist Church of
Vietnam, who was under house arrest himself) at the request
of Mrs. Doan Trang. Although Mrs. Uyen and Mr. Dung,
Cuong's brother, repeatedly tried to determine the
whereabouts of Cuong, she was not able to see him until
October 2001 at the B34 Camp in HCMC. After Mr. Cuong's
initial arrest in Quang Ngai, he was first transferred to a
detention facility in HCMC and finally to Chi Hoa prison,
also in HCMC. He is allowed two visits from his wife every
month while awaiting trial. According to Mrs. Uyen, Cuong
has been charged with "espionage," among other crimes.
Mrs. Uyen told ConGenoff that she and Cuong have a seven-
year-old son. She supports herself, her son, and her
husband by doing seamstress work from her house. She said
that her customers are afraid to come to her shop because
the police question them if they do so. Mrs. Uyen did say
that she herself had not been questioned by the police, nor
were there any restrictions on her movements. She and her
husband left high school before graduating.
C. Mr. Nguyen Vu Viet:
Viet was arrested on June 18, 2001, in Phu Nhuan district,
Ho Chi Minh City, and remains in prison. According to the
family, Viet is a graduate of HCMC's Open University and has
a degree in English. He worked for the "Tourist Department"
in Ho Chi Minh City where he was responsible of organizing
overseas tours for Vietnamese. He is also accused of
"espionage," according to his brother Mr. Dung and Mrs. Hoa.
Mrs. Hoa also informed ConGenoff that Mrs. Ngo Thi Hien
contacted Viet from the U.S. and asked him questions
regarding the circumstances of Father Ly's arrest and his
mother's funeral prior to his arrest. Mrs. Hoa stated that
her brother Viet often brought home printouts that he had
downloaded from the Internet regarding Father Ly and his
activities for family members to read. She was not sure,
however, whether brother Viet ever disseminated information
over the Internet since he lived alone. Mr. Viet is single,
so our information about him has come from relatives.
7. (SBU) Post Note: Our most important consideration at this
point is the welfare of the three accused and their
families. We do not want to put them in any (further)
jeopardy. In fact, ConGenoffs had to dissuade the
Protestant pastor cum self-appointed legal representative
from posting photos on the Internet "to generate publicity
for this case and the American Consulate." Post further had
to remind him that he should not represent himself as "an
agent of the Consulate", nor his activities as being on our
behalf. Since neither the niece, nephews, nor anybody in
their families currently has a passport or exit permit, even
with a P1 approval, it would be virtually impossible for
them to leave Vietnam under this program without some form
of cooperation from the Vietnamese Government. Mission has
received inquiries from Senator McCain's and Senator Frank
Lautenberg's offices.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media