US protests attack on diplomat by Vietnamese police

Thursday, January 6, 2011

HANOI - The US has formally complained to the Vietnamese government over a police attack Thursday on one of its diplomats in Hanoi and asked for an explanation of the incident.

Christian Marchant, a political officer at the embassy in Hanoi, was roughed up by police Wednesday, outside the home of Catholic priest and dissident Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly in Hue City.

The US embassy said the diplomat had been assaulted during the course of his normal, official duties.

“The United States government, both here in Hanoi and in Washington, has lodged a strong, official protest with the government of Vietnam regarding the treatment of one of our diplomats,” Ambassador Michael W Michalak said at a press conference. “We are waiting for an official response from the government of Vietnam.”

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the US State Department, told reporters in Washington that the Vietnamese ambassador had been summoned for a meeting with US officials.

“We are looking to the government of Vietnam to provide us with an explanation of what actually happened,” Toner said.

Michalak urged the government to comply fully with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, including ensuring the safety and security of diplomatic personnel.

Radio Free Asia cited Ly as saying Marchant was wrestled to the ground by police, put into a police car and driven away.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said Thursday that Vietnam always respects international law, including the Vienna Convention, in its treatment of foreign diplomats.

Nguyen Phuong Nga added that, “at the same time, foreign diplomatic agencies and diplomats also have a responsibility to comply with the Vienna convention and laws of the local country.”

The national authorities were considering Marchant’s conduct in their assessment of the incident, she said.

Ly, 63, a prominent dissident, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2007 for spreading anti-government propaganda. He was released for medical treatment last March after serving three years, but is still under house arrest.

The priest’s release came after 37 US senators urged President Nguyen Minh Triet to set Ly free.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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