01/25/2017, 18.48
VIETNAM
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As Hanoi’s crackdown continues, Christian activist Nguyen Van Oai arrested again

The authorities arrested him for resisting a public officer and failing to respect his probation order. His wife calls the charges spurious and fabricated. The 32-year-old Protestant served four years until August 2015. As the Trump administration disengages from Asia, Vietnam’s Communist government re-starts its crackdown against the opposition.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/ÉDA) – Vietnam’s Communist authorities have arrested a young Protestant activist, previously released from prison in 2015 after serving a four-year sentence.

Nguyên Van Oai was first arrested in August of 2011 when the authorities carried out a series of raids against bloggers and pro-human rights activists with links to religious groups and organisations, environmental groups and anti-Chinese activists.

Together with the renowned Catholic blogger Paulus Le Van Son, the 32-year-old activist was sentenced to four years in prison and four years of probation, for trying to "overthrow the legitimate government".

The court made its decision in accordance with the controversial article 79 of the Vietnamese Penal Code on the basis of vague charges in a sham trial. The two men had been detained without an arrest warrant and were denied proper legal assistance during the trial.

Less than two years since his release, Van Oai was arrested again. A few days ago, police informed his family that he had been detained on 19 January in Nghê An province for allegedly “resisting arrest by a public official doing his duty” and failing to respect the terms of his probation with respect to residence.

For his wife, the charges are specious and fabricated for the sole purpose of arresting him again.

At the time of his release, the activist told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that in prison he was pressured many times to say he was guilty in order to get an early release. He was also asked to write a personal confession. However, he rejected this, and continued to claim his innocence.

Van Oai is well known in in Vietnam for his activism, on and off line, on a variety of issues such as religious freedom, social justice and human rights.

In the past he took part in seminars on the social doctrine of the Catholic Church and in demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City against Beijing's policy "imperialist" in the South China Sea.

Activists and pro human rights organisations have accused Vietnam’s Communist government of restarting its campaign of repression and arbitrary arrests against civil society figures who are fighting for freedom and human rights in the country.

The authorities have cracked down in the past, arresting hundreds of people, often on false and specious accusations.

For some observers, the new campaign of repression is linked to the new US administration led by Donald Trump, which is truing to reduce its economic ties and trade with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region.

Under former President Obama, such ties had brought to an easing of the repression – see the release of Fr Van Ly, a Catholic priest who has become an iconic figure among human rights advocates – in the face of a growing number of economic agreements.

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