Vietnamese Human Rights Defender Sentenced in Sham Trial

September 18, 2017

A kangaroo court today sentenced Vietnamese human rights defender and blogger Nguyen Van Oai to five years prison followed by four years house arrest.

In a four hour trial, 36-year old Nguyen Van Oai was convicted of “resisting persons on duty” and “failing to comply with sentence” under Articles 257 and 304 of Vietnam’s Penal Code. He was arrested in January by plainclothes police while on his way home.

Despite authorities calling this a “public trial”, his family was not permitted to attend. Outside the courthouse, police assaulted Nguyen Van Oai’s mother and deployed trucks with jamming devices to block cellular service.

“They just need the trial as a farce, to be able to pronounce the decision,” Oai’s wife Ho Thi Chau wrote in a letter published on Facebook. “He will be the only one standing there to witness their sham performance.”

Nguyen Van Oai was previously detained in 2011 for “attempting to overthrow the government” under Article 79, one of many vague national security laws authorities used to silence free speech advocates. He was released in 2015 after completing a four year prison sentence.

A member of Viet Tan and co-founder of the Association of Catholic Former Prisoners of Conscience, Nguyen Van Oai campaigned for political prisoners and wrote about social injustice on his Facebook page.

In a petition submitted by Stanford law professor Allen Weiner, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) ruled in 2013 that the Vietnamese had violated international law by arbitrarily detaining Nguyen Van Oai.

“The latest sentence of Nguyen Van Oai by the Vietnamese Government is particularly shocking in light of the fact that an independent U.N. body had already ruled that his earlier conviction for free speech activities violated international human rights standards, standards that Vietnam itself agreed to respect,” says Weiner. “The case shows clearly that without steadfast external pressure, the Vietnamese government will not respect the right of free expression or accord basic human dignity to its citizens.”

Nguyen Van Oai’s sentencing comes amid an ongoing crackdown against peaceful expression. More than 20 activists and bloggers have been detained since the beginning of 2017.

Contact: Duy Hoang +1.202.596.7951