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Thursday, January 31, 2013
Nguyen Quoc Quan, 2nd from left, with his wife Huong Mai Ngo and their two sons. Photo courtesy of Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press
Nguyen Quoc Quan smiled broadly as he was greeted by his wife, children and other family members, who bore balloons and placed leis around his neck shortly after 8 p.m. as he exited a plane at
"I love you a lot, and I feel very near you every minute of jail," he told his wife, Huong Mai Ngo, in Vietnamese, then repeated in broken English for reporters. He pulled her to his side. "Now even closer," he said with a smile.
He said he was proud of what he accomplished and would be willing to return, with his wife's approval.
"The communist government of
He would only answer a few questions, promising to share details at a news conference Saturday, including the contents of a handwritten letter he brought back from another prisoner.
Vietnamese authorities' decision to release Quan contrasts with the long prison terms given to Vietnamese activists who are members of the same U.S.-based dissident group.
The release came after
Ngo said prior to his arrival that she doubted this was the case, suggesting that Ha Noi was seeking a face-saving way of allowing him to go home.
"I don't believe it. They say that about everybody," she said via telephone earlier Wednesday. "If my husband was prepared to do that (confess), he could have been released nine months ago."
Quan didn't address the issue with reporters at the airport.
Given the diplomatic sensitivities around the case, most observers had expected Quan to be released and quietly deported.
Quan, an American citizen, was arrested at Sai Gon's airport in April after arriving on a flight from the
Authorities initially accused Quan of terrorism, but he was later charged with subversion against the state, which carries penalties ranging from 12 years in prison to death. Earlier this month, 14 Vietnamese activists associated with Viet Tan were sentenced to up to 13 years in jail.
Quan's supporters didn't deny that he had gone to
According to a copy of the indictment obtained by The Associated Press, Quan met with fellow Vietnamese activists in