09/21/2017, 14.06
VIETNAM
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Hoàng Mai, Catholic activist Nguyễn Văn Oai convicted again

Nonviolent protests took place in front of the court. This is the second time the activist is imprisoned for his pro-democracy activities. The activist is one of the 14 young Christians arrested by the government in 2011. Local Catholics show their support in Vinh diocese. “People have become braver, more aware to protect the 'righteous',” says local Catholic.

Nghệ An (AsiaNews) – The People's Court in Hoàng Mai, Nghệ An's province, convicted Nguyễn Văn Oai, a Catholic blogger and former political prisoner, to five years in jail and four years house arrest for resisting public officials and violating his probation.

On 19 January, plainclothes police attacked the activist and took 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, was 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 Le Van Son, 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 heavy taxation, which weigh heavily on people.

He also backed the residents of Vietnam’s central provinces in their fight for compensation from Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation, an affiliate of the Formosa Plastics Corp, which caused Vietnam’s worst environmental disaster.

In January, when Nguyễn Văn Oai, Catholics in Xuân An, Hiền Môn, Song Ngọc and ten other parishes in Vinh diocese celebrated a Mass to show their support. During the service, they also lit many candles as a token of prayer.

On Monday, the day of the court decision, many people, Catholics and others from the local diocese and other provinces, gathered in front of the courthouse in Hoàng Mai.

Although they were prevented from entering the building, they protested in a peaceful way, calling for the release of the activist and other prisoners of conscience.

"The number of people going to the court increased steadily,” a local Catholic, present at the event, told AsiaNews. “People have become braver,” he added, “more aware of protecting the 'righteous'. They resent unjust verdicts and honour prisoners of conscience."

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