The leader of a Vietnamese exile group returned to his home in California after being detained in South Korea for three months as the Vietnamese government made an unsuccessful attempt to extradite him.
Chanh Huu Nguyen, 57, received a hero’s welcome Wednesday at Los Angeles International Airport from dozens of Vietnamese-American supporters who consider him a leader in the effort to overthrow the government of their native country.
The Vietnamese-born Nguyen, a permanent US resident, is leader of the exile group government of Free Vietnam, based in Orange County. Vietnam’s communist government calls him a terrorist.
“I feel happy to be home,” Nguyen told the crowd. “Vietnam are the terrorists. We are doing human rights and freedom.”
Nguyen was wanted by the Vietnamese government for his alleged involvement in failed attempts to bomb its embassies in the Philippines and Thailand and state facilities in Vietnam.
He was arrested in Seoul at Vietnam’s request in April. At the time, Nguyen was on a 10-day fundraising trip for the non-profit US International Mission, said Dennis Catron, the group’s president.
He was jailed in South Korea until a court there ordered him released last week, citing a treaty with Vietnam prohibiting extradition of suspects sought for political crimes.
A spokesman for the Vietnam Embassy in Washington said the country would continue to seek his extradition.
“He and his organisation should be stopped from conducting terrorist activities against Vietnam,” spokesman Cuong The Nguyen said.
Other members of the government of Free Vietnam have been sought by Vietnam.
Van Duc Vo, 46, was arrested in Orange County’s John Wayne Airport in 2001 for his alleged role in a failed bombing attempt in Thailand. A federal judge ordered Vo extradited to Vietnam. The case is on appeal.
Vo’s brother, Vinh Nguyen, was arrested in Manila in a similar failed plot. The Philippine government refused to extradite him.