[JURIST] A court of appeals in Thailand [JURIST news archive] Tuesday refused to extradite dissident Ly Tong [Wikipedia profile] to Vietnam [JURIST news archive] for using a hijacked plane to drop anti-communist leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in 2000. The court overturned a September ruling that ordered Tong's extradition to face criminal charges of slandering the Vietnamese government and violating its airspace. Judge Wisarut Sirisingh held on that Tong's offense was political rather than criminal, so there was no basis for extradition.
As a pilot for the South Vietnamese air force during the Vietnam War, Tong spent five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp. He gained US citizenship in 1984 and has dropped leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City in 1992 and over Havana, Cuba in 1998. Vietnamese authorities recently arrested a Catholic priest for distributing anti-government documents and two lawyers [JURIST reports] for holding a public human rights discussion. Tong has been detained in Thailand since November 2000, although California state lawmaker Van Thai Tran [personal website] has pressed the Thai government to transfer him to the United States since 2005. AP has more.