Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Court Upholds Extradition of Man Who Tried to Bomb Embassy
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The 2001 attempted bombing of Vietnam’s embassy in Thailand by a naturalized United States citizen from Vietnam did not qualify under the “political offense” exception in the U.S.-Thailand extradition treaty, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
The court affirmed Judge Dean D. Pregerson’s denial of Van Duc Vo’s petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California after the magistrate judge certified him as qualified for extradition.
In 2001 Van Duc Vo and Phan Nguyen Thanh Si devised and carried out a plan to plant explosives, similar to those used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in the embassy, the record showed. The explosives were attached to cell phones which were to act as triggering devices when called. However, on the day Si called the phones, the bombs failed to detonate.
Vo flew to Los Angeles later that day. Soon thereafter Thai police arrested Si, who implicated Vo.
Vo claimed that he decided at the last minute not to detonate the explosives and rigged them not to explode. However, Si said that Vo told him to “ignite” the bombs, and Thai forensic experts stated that the bombs were capable of going off when they were found.
The bombs were powerful enough to injure or kill people within a 30-45 feet radius.
Vo was arrested in California in 2001 and was initially charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States. After Thailand requested extradition, and at its request, the charges were dropped.
Vo, who came to the United States in 1990 to escape the regime in Vietnam, claimed that the bombing plot was a political act as part of an uprising against the government in Vietnam. He was a member of the Garden Grove-based group Government of Free Vietnam, whose stated purpose is to “[d]ismantle the Communist dictatorship of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam by a peaceful, practical and persistent approach.”
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the court, noted that in order for Vo’s crime to qualify under the political offense exception, there must have been an uprising or other violent political disturbance at the time of the offense, and the offense must have been “incidental to”, “in the course of”, or “in furtherance of” the uprising.
Reinhardt found no such uprising in Vietnam, saying:
“The sum of a few skirmishes with the police, coupled with a handful of explosions and bombing attempts around the Pacific Rim and a keen desire to see the downfall of the communist regime in Saigon, does not amount to an uprising.”
Offense Not in Vietnam
Reinhardt also held that, even if Vo established the existence of an uprising, his act must have been committed within country where the uprising occurred to qualify for the “political offense” exception.
Vo argued that he met the territorial requirement because the object of the attack, the embassy, is part of Vietnam.
Reinhardt disagreed and, citing an earlier opinion of the court, wrote:
“The term ‘uprising’ refers to a revolt by indigenous people against their own government or an occupying power. That revolt can occur only within the country or territory in which those rising up reside. By definition acts occurring in other lands are not part of the uprising.”
“Because Vo committed the offense outside the territorial boundaries of the state in which the uprising was allegedly occurring, his conduct does not meet the geographic requirement . . . and therefore does not qualify for the political offense exception.”
Reinhardt also said that Vo’s due process rights were not violated by the district court’s denial of his request to block extradition on the grounds that he had been “proceeded against” in the United States, noting that only the secretary of state can deny extradition on such grounds.
The case is Vo v. Benov, 04-56689.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company