By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Three U.S. citizens, including a Florida woman whose case has thwarted passage of a major trade deal between Vietnam and the United States, will be tried on charges of terrorism in Ho Chi Minh City People's Court on Friday, a Vietnamese judge announced yesterday.
The trial, expected to last a day, will take place just a week before President Bush is to due to arrive in Hanoi for an Asian economic summit. Bush hopes to win congressional approval for the trade bill before departure, but Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) has prevented the bill from coming to the floor of the Senate until the woman's case is resolved.
Thong Nguyen "Cuc" Foshee, 58, of Orlando, was arrested 13 months ago and held without charges until last week, after news reports of Martinez's action appeared. The two other U.S. citizens are Le Van "Phu" Binh and Huynh Bich "Linda" Lien. They will be tried with four Vietnamese nationals charged with similar crimes.
Bui Hoang Danh, the court's chief judge, said in a statement that the terrorism charges could result in sentences of at least 12 years, or even death.
Nhan Dan, the Communist Party newspaper, said the defendants were accused of bringing 14 radio transmitters and five generators into Vietnam, planning to seize control of the official Voice of Vietnam radio, and calling for an uprising against the government. The government accuses the seven defendants of working on behalf of the Government of Free Vietnam, a virulently anti-government group based in California that Vietnam considers a terrorist organization.
Elizabeth McCausland, Foshee's daughter, said her mother is associated with the group. McCausland said she did not know the extent of her mother's involvement or whether she is a member. She said her mother helped teach members about public speaking and democracy.
McCausland said yesterday that the local lawyer handling the case for her mother has still not been able to see Foshee or review the charges. "I don't know how it works there," she said, but she expected the lawyer to get access to his client and court documents before the trial.
"I'm hoping for a positive phone call on Friday," she said.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that the Bush administration was monitoring the trial closely. "We have, for some time, asked that the judicial process move forward in one direction or another," with the defendants either charged or released, he said. "We want to make sure that these people, now that they have been charged, proceed through the judicial process in a way that is transparent, that fully respects their rights and that is done in a relatively speedy manner."