Who Is William Nguyen? Texas Ivy Leaguer Arrested in Vietnam for 'Causing Public Disorder' to be Deported

A Vietnamese court has reportedly ordered the deportation of an American man who was detained last month after being accused of "causing public disorder" during mass protests over a plan to offer long-term land leases within the country.

William Anh Nguyen, a 32-year-old Yale graduate, is set to be released and "deported immediately" after his Friday trial comes to a close, the state-run Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper said, according to Reuters.

Nguyen, who was born in Houston and studied for a master's in public policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, had flown to Ho Chi Minh City on June 9 on a tourist visa, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

American citizen Will Nguyen is escorted by local police officers before his trial at a court in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on July 20, 2018. The 32-year-old Yale graduate is set to be deported after facing charges over disrupting public order. REUTERS

State media reports claimed that the 32-year-old had been "gathering and causing trouble" during the protests and stated that he had been filmed encouraging fellow protesters to climb over barricades.

Nguyen, who is of Vietnamese descent, admitted to his participation in nationwide protests over concerns that the country's plan to offer land leases for up to 99 years would see economic zones dominated by investors from China in a televised statement.

The jury decided against handing him a prison sentence because of his "sincerity" in owning up to his involvment, the Ho Chi Minh City Law newspaper said.

However, Phil Robertson, HRW's deputy Asia director, said he was concerned that Nguyen's admission of guilt "may have been coerced," in a statement published on HRW's website ahead of the Yale graduate's trial.

"Human Rights Watch is very concerned that Nguyen's public statement violated his due process rights and may have been coerced," Robertson said.

"Televised 'confessions' of this kind are a shameful tactic used by oppressive governments to intimidate critical voices into silence and flaunt their disregard for fundamental rights," he added.

The trial began two weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought up Nguyen's detainment with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi and encouraged a "speedy resolution."

James Thrower, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi told Reuters: "We are pleased that the case of U.S. citizen William Nguyen has been resolved. We understand from the court's decision that he will be deported after paying a fine."

Ahead of the outcome of Nguyen's trial, HRW hit out at the arrests and trials of protesters involved in the mass rallies.

"William Anh Nguyen and others face unfair trials and long sentences before Communist Party-controlled courts for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression," said Phil Robertson, the human rights organization's deputy Asia director, in a statement published on HRW's website.

While Vietnam's constitution does allow freedom of assembly, it is common for protests to be broken up by police.

If he had been found guilty of public disorder charges, Nguyen could have faced up to seven years in prison, according to Vietnam's criminal code.