Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A court in north-central Vietnam’s Nghệ An province yesterday upheld a five-year prison term imposed on jailed Catholic blogger Nguyễn Văn Oai (pictured), rejecting his appeal and returning him to jail.
On 18 September, the Hoàng Mai People's Court had sentenced the activist and former political prisoner to five years in prison and four years of house arrest for resisting a public official and violating his probation.
On 19 January 2017, plainclothes police had attacked him and taken him into custody, then accused him of resisting “persons on duty” and violating the terms of a house arrest order he received in 2015 because of a previous conviction for pro-democracy activity.
Nguyễn Văn Oai, 36, belongs to an outlawed pro-democracy group called Việt Tân and is co-founder of an association of Catholic former prisoners of conscience.
He was also part of a group of 14 young Catholics and Protestants arrested by Vietnamese authorities in 2011 during a raid against human rights activists linked to religious groups and organisations, environmental movements and anti-Chinese patriots.
In 2013, the activist was sentenced to four years in prison along with Paulus Lê Văn Sơn, a well-known Catholic blogger, for trying to "overthrow the legitimate government".
Despite the conviction, he continued his human rights activities, exposing the injustices of local authorities, and leading protests against high taxation, which weigh heavily on people.
He also backed the residents of Vietnam’s central provinces in their fight for compensation from the Formosa Hà Tĩnh Steel Corporation, which caused Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster.
Local sources report that plainclothes police and thugs attacked Oai's supporters outside the court, snatching their phones and some banners calling for the activist's release.