Vietnam-born US citizen in Bangkok bomb plot extradited
Los Angeles - A US citizen accused of trying to bomb the Vietnamese embassy in Bangkok five years ago has been extradited to Thailand, US justice officials confirmed Monday.
Vietnam-born Vo Duc Van, 46, is alleged to have been part of a gang that planted two bombs outside the embassy in June, 2001 in a protest against his homeland's communist rulers.
He was arrested stepping off a plane at John Wayne Airport in southern California five years ago and has been in custody ever since, fighting extradition on the grounds his act was politically motivated.
US justice officials confirmed to AFP Monday that Van has now been extradited to Thailand.
"He has actually left the country," a spokesman said. "I believe the plane left the United States on December 1."
Lawyers for Van petitioned US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in October, arguing against his extradition.
Van wrote in a letter accompanying the petition that he had disarmed the two bombs and had merely intended to make a political statement.
"It was a political message coordinated to occur on the day celebrating the army of South Vietnam," Van wrote. "As a Buddhist, I hold life sacred and would personally do nothing that would cause the loss of life."
Van said he feared Thai authorities would deliver him to Vietnam.
In May a US appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Vo should be extradited to Thailand.
The panel ruled that the actions of the US-based group Government of Free Vietnam, to which Van belongs, did not constitute an official uprising against the Southeast Asian country.
The June 19, 2001, bomb attempt involved two packages, one left outside the wall of the embassy and another which was tossed into the compound.
The bombs were allegedly placed by an accomplice of Van's, and were wired to a cell-phone detonator but failed to explode when the device was triggered, the US appeal court ruling noted.