A German federal court said Monday it has thrown out an appeal by a Vietnamese man convicted of involvement in a kidnapping case that strained relations between Berlin and Hanoi.
In July 2018, a Berlin district court sentenced the man, who has been identified only as Long N.H. because of German privacy rules, to three years and 10 months in prison. He was convicted of espionage and being an accessory to unlawful detention.
Germany’s Federal Court of Justice has now upheld the conviction of the man, who lived in the Czech Republic.
Prosecutors accused the man of hiring a vehicle used to drive the former chairman of PetroVietnam’s construction arm, Trinh Xuan Thanh, and a woman accompanying him out of Germany.
Authorities say the pair were snatched off the street in Berlin in 2017 by Vietnamese intelligence officials and other employees at the country’s embassy. Berlin accused Vietnam of breaking international law and kicked out the country’s intelligence attache.
Thanh was taken to Vietnam, where he was sentenced to life in prison for corruption.
Beyond the immediate details of the incident, it had also attracted widespread international attention at the time as it spotlighted the outstanding human rights issues in Vietnam as well as the potential for these domestic issues to strain Hanoi’s ties with outside powers including Germany.
While Vietnam’s ties with European countries have since improved in some ways, the event has nonetheless remained a manifestation of the limits of relations despite convergences in some areas. And the headlines we saw from the rejected appeal this week will be yet another reminder of a consequential event for Vietnam as well as its relations with the outside world as Hanoi is serving as both the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council this year ahead of its significant Party Congress in 2021.
By The Associated Press, with additional reporting by The Diplomat.