Activists accused of plotting to overthrow the communist regime stand listening to verdicts at a People's Court in Vinh city, in the north-central province of Nghe An on Jan 9, 2013. Two activists were released Aug. 3 after spending four years in prison. (AFP PHOTO/Vietnam News Agency)
Vietnamese authorities on August 3 released two activists who finished serving jail terms they had received under a vague and ill-defined statute used by authorities to routinely crack down on those who are critical of the one-party communist state.
Paulus Le Van Son, a prominent Catholic blogger, and Nguyen Van Oai, a Protestant social rights activist, had each been sentenced to four years in prison and four years of probation for attempting to overthrow the government or joining organizations with the "intent" to do so under Article 79 of Vietnam's Penal Code.
They were arrested in August 2011 as part of a crackdown on activists with ties to religious organizations, anti-China protests, environmental advocacy and citizen journalism, and had been held at a detention center in Hanoi.
The pair had been detained without warrants and had limited access to legal representation.
Van Oai told RFA's Vietnamese Service that about four or five months ago, security personnel had advised him to plead guilty to receive leniency, but he did not. Then about a month ago, they suggested that he write a confession, but he refused.
“On the afternoon of Aug 1, they called me to do some paperwork so I could be freed, but I did not sign the form,” he said. “By the second day, I was supposed to be going home, but they continued to call me to work for more than 10 hours and told me that the office had not yet freed me.”
But later that day, authorities put him in a car and drove him around for several hours before freeing him, he said.
Le Van Son told RFA that he was released the same day and greeted by people from Hanoi and Vinh in Nghe An province.
Two more activists from the group arrested in the 2011 crackdown — Dang Xuan Dieu and Ho Duc Hoa — are serving the longest sentences of 13 years.
Reported by RFA's Vietnamese Service. Translated by KaLynh Ngo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia ©2015