HOUSTON (FOX 26) - American citizen and Houston native Will Nguyen has been released by Vietnamese authorities and will now return home. Nguyen, 32, was arrested by police during a large-scale economic protest in Ho Chi Minh City on June 10.
Will was detained for 41 days before his case went to trial in Vietnam on Friday morning. He could have faced anywhere from two to seven years in prison. Instead, he's now walking away having only to pay a small fee.
Will was studying to receive his master's degree from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. His family said Will was in Vietnam as a pre-graduation celebration.
Will's family members have worked side-by-side with local, state and federal legislators to push for his release.
"It's a huge relief," said Will's brother, Kenny Nguyen. "We're just happy to hear that he's obviously safe and sound, but also that he's actually coming home soon."
Kenny said that during the last several weeks, his family watched in agony as their brother was badly beaten and dragged across the street. Their mother was apparently able to see Will for about 30 minutes earlier this week and told Kenny that Will had lost weight but was in good condition.
Although the family couldn't be happier to bring him home from Vietnam in one piece, Kenny said they feel betrayed by the country they call home.
"When you love your country so much, it's kind of like a stab to the heart a little bit when you're treated that way, even though you are still the same people," added Kenny. "I'm sure it hurt my brother a lot. It hurt my family a lot."
In a joint effort, Texas Congressman Al Green and several other local, state and federal legislators, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote a letter to President Donald Trump, urging him to join the fight to get Will released.
"We were trying to get as much attention as necessary, without giving the appearance of trying to force the government of Vietnam to do something," said U.S. Rep. Green. "You can get an adverse reaction if you do this."
During a visit to Vietnam earlier in July, the State Department says Secretary Pompeo brought up Will's case and pushed Vietnamese authorities to come to a speedy resolution. Shortly after his visit, Will's case went to trial.
U.S. Rep. Green said Will's release is a big win for everyone.
"I'm grateful that the government of Vietnam allowed him to come home," said Congressman Green. "I'm grateful that he did not get a jail sentence. I'm grateful that he only had to pay a small administrative fee and he was released. This is a good day for our nation, not just for this family, because it shows that when our country bands together and works together, we can get our people out of harm's way."
Kenny said he plans on giving his brother a big hug when he sees him.
It's unclear if Will plans on staying in Houston when he returns.
There is no word yet on when exactly Will's return flight is scheduled for.