Orange County father reunited with family following release from Vietnamese prison

A family had an emotional reunion when their father returned home to Orange County after being incarcerated in Vietnam for nearly two-and-a-half years.
ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- A family had an emotional reunion when their father returned home to Orange County after being incarcerated in Vietnam for nearly two-and-a-half years.

In a briefing to the press via Zoom, Michael Nguyen said he was visiting relatives in Vietnam when he was taken from a bus with three others and arrested on July 7, 2018.

"I was essentially kidnapped with three others - taken off a bus. No reason was given to me. No credentials were presented to me," Nguyen said.

Nguyen's wife, a surgical nurse suddenly left to be a single mother of four girls, took action and advocated for the release of her husband - a businessman dedicated to his daughters, church and community.

Congresswoman Katie Porter championed efforts for the release of Nguyen, alongside other U.S. government leaders.

Meanwhile, Nguyen said he sat in a Vietnamese jail nearly one year before his trial, wondering why he was there and about the well-being of his family.

"In the 11 months before my trial, I had to endure this thing with no knowledge of the true condition of my family. I love my daughters. I love my wife. This was very stressful, but I also knew I had to be strong," Nguyen said.

His trial came, but Nguyen said he had no opportunity to defend himself.

"They told me I can explain myself, but when I start speaking, they stopped me. They silenced me," Nguyen said.

Nguyen's sentence was 12 years in prison for charges of activity against the state.

"We never were able to receive detailed information or any supporting facts to document those charges," Porter said.

Grateful for the work of many who helped bring him back home, Nguyen said, unfortunately, other prisoners he met in Ham Tan weren't as lucky.

"I met many people from many different countries. Many of them did not have the people back home fighting for them," Nguyen said.

Nguyen said even his release was very secretive. He said he was suddenly flown to Korea where he was able to communicate with his family.

Porter said the Vietnamese government called Nguyen's release a humanitarian gesture.
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