ELK GROVE (CBS13) – An Elk Grove man is free after being locked in a Vietnamese jail for months, accused of conspiring to overthrow the government.
Dr. Quan Nguyen’s home country thought he was a terrorist, but his family and fellow activists say he was trying to bring peace to Vietnam.
The second he stepped into that country, more than nine months ago, he was arrested at the Ho Chi Minh airport.
“Fantastic, fantastic and very surprised,” said Dr. Nancy Tran.
Vietnamese radio host Tran hit the airwaves first thing in the morning with good news. Nguyen was finally released after nine months behind bars in Vietnam.
“He was arrested with fliers, calling for peaceful democratic changes,” said Tran.
His wife Huong Mai Ngo, waiting in Los Angeles to get him from the airport.
“I did not expect it at all,” she told CBS13 in a phone interview. “I was speechless, then I kept crying.”
They’ve been married 22 years and have two sons in their early 20s. For the past nine months, their only communication has been passing short notes through the consulate.
“He told me, 22 years ago that was the happiest day, luckiest day, best day in his life,” Ngo said.
This is the second time Nguyen was jailed in Vietnam. He was imprisoned for six months in 2007 because he was believed to be a terrorist.
“Actually, the ones that create terrors in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Communist,” said Tran.
Tran and Nguyen are activists with Viet Tan, a non-violent group that calls for change in Vietnam’s Communist government, but that group is considered a terrorist organization in their home country.
“There’s nothing to fear. It is our right to take back our rights and our country,” said Tran.
It took thousands of petition signatures and urging by the U.S. government, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to finally get Nguyen freed.
It’s just in time for the Vietnamese New Year on Feb. 10; so they’ll have plenty to celebrate.
A large group of family awaited Nguyen’s arrival at Los Angeles International Airport.