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US Protests Police Treatment of Diplomat in Vietnam

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Reported by VOA NEWS

The U.S. State Department says it has lodged a strong protest with the Vietnamese government after police in the city of Hue roughed up a U.S. diplomat and slammed a car door on his legs.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday that U.S. embassy political officer Christian Marchant was not seriously injured, but said U.S. officials are waiting for a full explanation of what happened.

The officials say police in Hue assaulted Marchant when he was on his way to visit dissident Roman Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, who is under house arrest.

The U.S. embassy in Hanoi calls the incident a matter of grave concern. It says it violates an international treaty in which host countries must guarantee the safety of foreign diplomats.

Ly was sentenced in 2007 to eight years in prison on charges of attempting to undermine Vietnam's government. He was given a 12-month release last year to receive treatment for a brain tumor.

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam improved in 2010, but human rights issues remain a major source of friction.

The U.S. ambassador in Hanoi, Michael Michalak, said last month that free expression is under attack in Vietnam, with new restrictions on bloggers and Internet cafes and the hacking of critical websites.

He said 24 people were arrested and 14 others were convicted last year “for the peaceful expression of their views.”