American detained in Vietnam convicted, ordered deported

HANOI, Vietnam -- A Vietnamese court on Friday convicted an American man of disturbing public order after he took part in a rare protest and ordered him deported.

William Nguyen, 32, from Houston, was arrested June 10 during protests in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City against a proposed law on special economic zones that many say would benefit Chinese investors.

A court official said Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, admitted to the violation and showed remorse, which resulted in a lenient sentence. He had faced up to seven years in prison.

Nguyen was to be released and "deported immediately" after his one-day trial ended Friday, the Reuters news service cites the Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper as reporting.

"We are pleased that the case of U.S. citizen William Nguyen has been resolved," James Thrower, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, said in a statement emailed to Reuters. "We understand from the court's decision that he will be deported after paying a fine."

William Nguyen in undated photo

Demonstrations in communist Vietnam are uncommon and often broken up by plainclothes police.

Six Vietnamese have been sentenced to up to 2-and-a-half years in prison for the protest and more are awaiting trial.

The protest was one of several in the country. It concerned three special economic zones where proposed legislation would allow land to be rented for up to 99 years. The passage of the law was postponed to allow time for more research.

Mistrust of China runs deep in Vietnam, one of the most outspoken critics of Chinese construction and militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea's disputed waters. Anti-Chinese riots in 2014 left four people dead and more than 100 injured.

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