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Vietnam police rough up US diplomat

Associated Press / January 7, 2011

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HANOI — Police roughed up an American diplomat in Vietnam and repeatedly slammed a car door on his legs when he went to visit a prominent dissident, an official in Washington said yesterday, detailing an encounter that prompted a strong US protest.

Christian Marchant, a political officer at the US Embassy in Hanoi, was expected to make a full recovery after being roughed up while trying to visit the detained dissident, said the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details.

US-funded Radio Free Asia said Marchant was attacked outside the home of Catholic priest Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, wrestled to the ground, put into a police car and driven away.

Neither the US Embassy in Hanoi nor outgoing Ambassador Michael Michalak would describe the incident, but he said the United States had protested what occurred Wednesday in the central city of Hue.

Michalak called the issue a matter of grave concern, saying foreign diplomats are protected under international law.

“All governments are responsible for complying fully with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, including ensuring the safety and security of diplomatic personnel,’’ he said.

The State Department summoned the Vietnamese ambassador to Washington to protest the incident, said Mark Tone, a State Department spokesman.

Nguyen Phuong Nga, Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the government is reviewing the incident, but pointed out that foreign diplomats also have a responsibility to abide by the host country’s laws.

Ly, 63, one of Vietnam’s best-known dissidents, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2007 on charges of trying to undermine the Communist government and is under house arrest.

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