Nguyen Van Oai

Current Status: Sentenced

Photo of Nguyen Van Oai

Other Names: Nguyễn Văn Oai

Date of Birth: June 18, 1981

Gender: M

Religion: Christian (Catholic)

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Engineer

Latest Prison:

Areas of Activism:

  • Labor rights
  • Maritime sovereignty
  • Press
  • Religious freedom

Known Affiliations:

  • Association of Catholic Former Prisoners of Conscience

Arrest History

Arrest 1

July 30, 2011
January 9, 2013
4 years in prison
  • Art. 79
August 2, 2015

Arrest 2

January 19, 2017
September 18, 2017
5 years in prison
  • Art. 257
  • Art. 304
January 19, 2022
Defense Counsels: Ha Huy Son


January 2018:

Nguyen Van Oai's appeal of his five year sentence was denied on January 15, 2017. His sentence remains five years in prison and four years of house arrest. 

Nguyen Van Oai is from Nghe An province and is an active member of the Catholic community.

Nguyen Van Oai is a Catholic leader who has been active in the labor rights movement and protests against Chinese relations with Vietnam. He has also blogged on social and political issues and has been targeted for alleged ties to overseas pro-democracy group, Viet Tan.

First arrest:

Oai was arrested as part of a crackdown on Catholic youth activists in 2011. He was arrested along with several others, was tried in 2013, and received a sentence of four years in prison and four years probation. He was released from prison in August 2015 and was still serving the four years of probation at the time of his re-arrest in January 2017.

Latest arrest:

Oai was arrested while on a trip in Nghe An province on January 19, 2017, for allegedly violating the terms of his probation. He was supposed to face trial on Monday, August 21, but news came just one day prior to the scheduled trial that his trial had been postponed. According to a notice from the People’s court of Hoang Mai commune, the court received a motion to postpone the trial from several individuals with related legitimate interests. The court did not provide more details as to the reasons for the motion, what constituted “related legitimate interests,” or the substantive grounds for granting the motion.

Oai was tried on September 18, 2017 in Hoang Mai and sentenced to five years in prison and four years probation. It was a short, secretive trial. His family was not allowed to attend. Police actively blocked the public’s cell phones and ability to enter the court. Oai and his lawyer, Ha Huy Son, refused to admit guilt throughout. Article 304 (“failing to execute probation”), one of the provisions he was tried under, has rarely been used to silence activists previously. He has reportedly appealed his sentence.

A court in Nghe An denied Catholic activist and blogger Nguyen Van Oai’s appeal of his five year sentence on January 15. His wife and mother were the only family members permitted to attend the hearing; they reported Oai to be in poor health. Both he and his lawyer maintained his innocence and claimed that the trial was not fair. Supporters were attacked outside the courthouse, their cellphones and banners with messages of solidarity were confiscated. 

Prior to arrest: healthy

Oai has a newborn daughter, born on August 9, 2017. His wife was hospitalized during the pregnancy while Oai was in detention.

Contact us if you can assist. 

February 2017:

On February 15, 2017, Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action, calling on Vietnam to release Oai and two other human rights defenders, Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Van Hoa, unconditionally and immediately.

August 2017:

RSF called for the release of Oai ahead of his trial, which was originally scheduled for August 21 but then postponed to September 18. They encouraged the use of the hashtag #FreeNguyenVanOai to bring awareness to his case.

November 2017:

Seventeen nongovernmental organizations released a letter ahead of the APEC Summit, calling on world leaders to raise the issue of human rights in host country Vietnam and press for the release of prisoners of conscience. The letter specifically raised the cases of female bloggers Tran Thi Nga and Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, as well as Oai; all three were sentenced to multiple years in prison this year. Read the full text here.

The 88 Project's archives

Defend the Defender's archives

Front Line Defender's profile

Jailed Viet Dissident is Latest in Rising Crackdown, Asia Sentinel, September 20, 2017 

Viet Nam: Three Human Rights Defenders Held Incommunicado, Amnesty International, February 15, 2017 (PDF)

Profile last updated: 2018-01-23 06:06:00