updated 11/2/2006 5:31:21 AM ET 2006-11-02T10:31:21

Seven people, including three Vietnamese-born U.S. citizens, will be prosecuted on charges of plotting violence against Vietnam’s communist government, officials said Thursday.

The prosecutor included charges against a U.S. citizen whose 13-month-long detention has drawn attention in the United States before President Bush’s visit to Vietnam Nov. 17 through 20.

U.S. Sen. Bill Martinez of Florida has linked the detention of Orlando, Florida resident Nguyen Thuong Cuc (alias Foshee Thuong Nguyen) to passage of a bill granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations status. Martinez has said she should be charged or released.

Washington and Hanoi signed a new trade deal on May 31 that helped Vietnam toward next week’s expected accession to the World Trade Organization. Vietnam is the fastest-growing market for U.S. goods in Asia and the two countries have built a friendship mainly through business ties since restoring diplomatic relations in 1995, 20 years after the end of the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Prosecutors had “asked the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court to bring to court seven defendants involved in a terrorism case” a statement carried by the official Vietnam News Agency said.

Three of those charged, including Foshee, are U.S. citizens, U.S. officials said. A fourth was listed as having a U.S. address and the remaining three were Vietnamese living in Vietnam.

Ringleader?
The statement linked the seven to a Vietnamese-born resident of the United States, Nguyen Huu Chanh, who was suspected of plotting to bomb Vietnam embassies in recent years.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung said in a separate statement that Foshee, 58, was held “for allegedly being involved in terrorist activities, but has not been brought to trial.”

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said consular officials had visited all three citizens, who are detained in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We want them to be treated equitably and appropriately under Vietnamese law and we want to continue doing what we have been doing for them and their families,” she said.

Chanh, the accused ringleader, was detained in South Korea in the past year following a request by Vietnam to arrest and extradite him. Chanh is a member of a U.S.-based group called “Government of Free Vietnam” but he has not yet been extradited.

The government statement said that “in order to carry out the plot, Nguyen Huu Chanh and his accomplices stopped at nothing, including terrorist bombing and using radio broadcasts to call for an uprising and then to stir unrest and upset the lives of cadres, public employees and ordinary people.”

Security and anti-terrorism are major issues for leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in the Vietnamese capital during the week of Nov. 12-19. The group includes the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry spokesman said Vietnam was “considering the possibility of abolishing” a 1997 decree that allows for detention without trial and has been used by Hanoi to detain people opposed to one-party rule.

The United States and European countries have praised Hanoi in the last two years for improving its human rights and religious rights record by allowing faiths to practice and by releasing some imprisoned dissidents and religious leaders.

Dissident Buddhist monk Thich Quang Do, one of Vietnam’s long-time campaigners for democracy and human rights, in September received the annual Thorolf Rafto Foundation for human rights award. Do, 77, said Tuesday he would not travel to Bergen, Norway, to collect the prize on Saturday because he feared being forced into exile by the communist authorities.

Hanoi spokesman Dung said the award was “completely inappropriate” for a person “who has violated Vietnamese law, provoked disputes and caused divisions among religions, undermined national unity and was once tried.”

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