Five years for activist after brief trial

Happier days – Nguyen Van Oai was released from prison in 2015 after serving an earlier sentence.

A Vietnamese court has sentenced a political activist to five years in prison and four years of house arrest, as the authorities continue their campaign to silence prominent government critics.

Police units arrived by truck to prevent relatives and supporters of the accused, Nguyen Van Oai, from entering the court in the north-central province of Nghe An.

The judge took just four hours to reach a guilty verdict and pass sentence in a trial condemned by rights campaigners as a charade.

Nguyen Van Oai, a 36-year-old Christian activist and member of the banned Vietnam reform party, Viet Tan, was charged with obstructing officials and violating the terms of his probation following an earlier prison sentence.

He had been released from prison in 2015 after serving a two year term on subversion charges but was confined to his home district by rigid probation terms often imposed on political dissidents.

Oai has campaigned for the protection of civil rights as co-founder of the Association of Catholic Former Prisoners of Conscience.

Some twenty, bloggers and pro-democracy campaigners have been arrested, sentenced or exiled this year as the Communist party seeks to crush its most vocal critics.

Hard-line ideologues around the party’s general-secretary, Nguyen Phu Trong, are believed to be consolidating their grip on power following a power struggle with more reform minded officials.

The security crackdown has been running in parallel with an anti-corruption campaign that has targeted a number of officials associated with reformist sections of the party.