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Orange County

No Bail for Jailed Activist

Free Vietnam member awaits an extradition ruling in an alleged bomb plot in Thailand.

November 11, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Citing a lack of a compelling argument to justify the release of an anti-communist activist, a U.S. magistrate ordered that he remain jailed without bail pending a decision on whether he should be extradited to Thailand to face charges he tried to blow up the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok.

Magistrate Paul Game's ruling means Van Duc Vo, a U.S. citizen, will begin a third year in federal custody while he waits for U.S. District Judge Arthur Nakazato to rule on Thailand's extradition request. Nakazato has studied the case for 11 months.

Vo's attorney, W. Michael Mayock, said his client's family is disappointed by Game's ruling, which was signed Thursday and made public Monday.

"It's especially hard, because his father is dying from cancer, and the family wanted him to see his father before he died," Mayock said.

The Baldwin Park resident was arrested Oct. 12, 2001, when he was stopped at John Wayne Airport after authorities suspected him of trying to detonate a backpack filled with explosives outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok. A federal grand jury charged Vo with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, but the U.S. attorney's office chose not to prosecute him.

Federal prosecutors dropped their case against Vo when he agreed to stand trial in Thailand. But he changed his mind and chose to fight extradition.

Vo is a member of Free Vietnam, a Garden Grove-based resistance group formed to overthrow the communist government of Vietnam. His brother, Vinh Tan Nguyen, is facing charges in the Philippines in a similar alleged plot to bomb the Vietnamese Embassy there. The explosives did not detonate in either case.

At a hearing last week, a federal prosecutor said Vo should not be freed on bail because he is a flight risk and a danger to the community. The government's attorneys argued that Vo is a risk to flee because he could face the death penalty in Thailand.

Mayock said Vo is fighting extradition because he fears that Thailand might turn him over to Vietnam, where he fears he could end up in a prison. But the U.S. extradition treaty with Thailand prohibits either nation from turning a defendant over to a third country, Mayock said.

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