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Democratic Activist Honored After Spending 9 Months in Vietnam Jail

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ELK GROVE (CBS13) – An Elk Grove father and husband is back home and being honored after spending nine months in a Vietnamese jail.

Mathematician Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, who returned home a few weeks ago, received a congressional award Monday for his courage.

Humbled and honored, he described his hardships in his communist home country.

“It’s terrible,” he said.

Imagine nine months of interrogations in a freezing room, stuck in a cell with stomach turning, the stench of bathrooms that don’t work, barely being fed, but Dr. Quan says he still feels like the lucky one.

“I miss my family, I miss my friends. So I think a lot of people lose their family. I just miss,” he said about being able to come home eventually.

Quan is a member of Viet Tan, a non-violent democratic activist group. He was arrested the moment he landed in his home country in April. He says they called him a terrorist.

“They say terrorists tried to teach people the peaceful way,” he said.

For his wife and two sons in college, it was nine months of anguish.

“He (a son) keep calling, asking when dad back,” wife Huong Ngo said. “I don’t know how to tell. Just say we should hope and pray.”

He said his sudden return came because of pressure from Congress.

“I’m so happy, I think I’m on top of the world, so happy. Cannot imagine that he’d come back.”

Finally back together with his family, Quan still says he’d like to go back — but only when the government releases its control on the Vietnamese.

“I believe that our families are safe in USA and the U.S. government will always protect them,” he said.

He also believes that the day will come when the peaceful protesters are heard in his home country.

This was the second time Dr. Quan was arrested in Vietnam. The first time, in 2007, he was locked up for six months.

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