Vietnam Jails Prominent Blogger For Five Years
Viet Tan 2017-09-19
A court in
northern-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province on Monday sentenced prominent
blogger and former political prisoner Nguyen Van Oai to five years in prison and
four years of house arrest for resisting police officers and leaving his home
while on probation, his lawyer said.
Oai, 36, was taken into custody by plainclothes officers on Jan. 19 while
walking along a street in the town of Hoang Mai in Nghe An province for
“resisting persons on duty” after authorities accused him of violating the terms
of a house arrest order he received in 2015 for having ties to the outlawed Viet
Tan pro-democracy organization.
As a member of Viet Tan and a cofounder of the Association of Catholic Former
Prisoners of Conscience, Oai has campaigned for political prisoners and written
about social injustice on his Facebook page, according to a statement issued by
Viet Tan on Monday.
“In court, I said Mr. Oai was not guilty, but the court still upheld two
convictions and sentenced him to five years imprisonment in addition to four
years of probation which he owed from the first sentence in 2013,” Ha Huy Son,
the attorney who defended Oai, told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
In August 2011, Oai was among a group of 14 Catholic and Protestant youths
arrested as part of a crackdown on activists with ties to religious
organizations, anti-China protests, environmental advocacy, and citizen
He was sentenced in 2013 to four years in prison and three years of probation
for attempting to overthrow the government or joining organizations with the
“intent” to do so under Article 79 of Vietnam's Penal Code. He completed that
jail term in 2015, including time served since his 2011 arrest.
Article 79 is one of a number of vague statutes that authorities often use to
detain writers and bloggers who criticize the country's communist govenrment and
“In front of the court, Mr. Oai told the truth and claimed that he had not
committed any crime,” Son said. “The court did not listen to what he said and
still sentenced him to the maximum sentence suggested by the People’s
Oai, who has maintained his innocence, saying he only spoke out to demand rights
for the people of Vietnam in accordance with the country’s constitution and
laws, will appeal the sentence, Son said.
Harassed by police
None of Oai’s relatives was allowed to attend the trial, which was originally
scheduled for Aug. 21.
“Despite authorities calling this a ‘public trial,’ his family was not permitted
to attend,” Viet Tan statement said. “Outside the courthouse, police assaulted
Nguyen Van Oai’s mother and deployed trucks with jamming devices to block
A person who attempted to attend the trial told RFA that a group of Oai’s
supporters, including his mother, met at 7 a.m. at the Yen Dai church to go to
“When we arrived at the court entrance, the police did not let us in,” said the
source who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding that officers pushed them
around, videoed them, and turned up the volume on some speakers to get them to
Police also stomped on the toes of Oai’s mother until they bled, he said.
“We waited until 11 o’clock when the trial ended,” he said. “Then we saw lawyer
Ha Huy Son coming out and a prison car which we thought was carrying Oai. Lawyer
Son said that he was not allowed to say much during the hearing.”
Oai is one of more than 20 activists and bloggers who have been detained since
the beginning of the year, according to Viet Tan.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Emily Peyman. Written in
English by Roseanne Gerin.