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The State | IN BRIEF / SAN FRANCISCO

Jury to Decide Case of Vietnamese Protester

October 11, 2002|From Times Wire Reports

A jury will now decide whether a Vietnamese woman who tried to set herself on fire last year is guilty of charges as serious as terrorism, or whether she simply wanted to protest Communism in her native country.

Closing arguments wrapped up in federal court Thursday in the case of Ngoc Hanh Dang Nguyen, who was arrested last December. Witnesses say she carried a black bag to the front of a ballroom in the Marriott Hotel, where Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung was speaking.

She was tackled while allegedly trying to light torches that were in the bag along with a jug of gasoline.

"My client is consistently saying the same thing," defense attorney Gregor D. Guy-Smith said in his closing argument. "She came here to protest. She came here to light herself on fire."

Self-immolation is a traditional Vietnamese form of protest that gained international attention in 1963, when a famous photograph was taken of a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire in what was then Saigon. But prosecutors argued that Nguyen, who lived in France after escaping from Vietnam in 1989, intended to harm the Vietnamese official, not commit suicide.

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