Envoy beaten in Vietnam, U.S. says

By Margie Mason and Matthew Lee
Friday, January 7, 2011

HANOI - Vietnamese police roughed up an American diplomat and repeatedly slammed a car door on his legs when he went to visit a prominent dissident, an official in Washington said Thursday. The encounter prompted a strong U.S. protest.

Christian Marchant, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, was expected to make a full recovery, said the U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose details.

U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said Marchant was attacked Wednesday outside the home of a Catholic priest, the Rev. Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly, in the central Vietnamese city of Hue. He was wrestled to the ground, put into a police car and driven away, according to the report.

The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Hanoi, Michael Michalak, did not describe the incident but said the United States had lodged a strong protest "both here in Hanoi and in Washington . . . regarding the treatment of one of our diplomats."

The State Department summoned the Vietnamese ambassador to Washington to protest the incident, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said that the government is reviewing the incident but that foreign diplomats have a responsibility to abide by the host country's laws.

Marchant recently received a State Department award for his work on human rights.

Ly, 63, one of Vietnam's best-known dissidents, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2007 after being convicted of trying to undermine Vietnam's Communist government. He was released last year on medical parole but remains on house arrest.

- Associated Press

Lee reported from Washington.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company