Charges dropped against Laotian hero in Calif.

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A file photo taken 11 May 2000 shows former Hmong general Vang Pao talking after laying a wreath at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, marking the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in Laos.

A federal grand jury in California investigating an alleged plot to overthrow the government of Laos has decided to drop charges against a leading figure in the nation's Hmong community.

[Listen to a KPCC profile of Vang Pao by former KPCC reporter Doualy Xaykaothao: Download]

In an announcement Friday, U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown says charges have been dropped against 79-year-old Vang Pao (Vang POW). Pao is a former Laotian general who assisted American troops during the Vietnam War and is considered a hero by Hmong refugees living in the U.S.

Hundreds of supporters have rallied in Pao's defense outside the federal courthouse in Sacramento during each of his court appearances.

Charges remain against 10 others, including a retired Army lieutenant colonel. Two more people have been charged in the case.

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