A message of support for blogger Van Oai, published on Facebook

A Vietnamese provincial court on Tuesday upheld the five-year jail sentence of Christian blogger and activist Nguyen Van Oai.

Van Oai was sentenced at the People’s Court in the town Hoàng Mai in September to a five-year jail term and four years’ house arrest for resisting a public official and violating his probation.

Van Oai, 36, had been arrested in January by plain clothes police and accused of breaking the terms of his probation after leaving his locality for a fishing trip, which his lawyer denied his client did.

More than 20 bloggers and activists were detained in Vietnam last year as the communist government cracked down on dissent. Amnesty International said that bloggers are among the at least 88 prisoners of conscience behind bars in Vietnam.

Van Oai co-founded a society of former prisoners of conscience and is a member of Việt Tân, an outlawed pro-democracy movement. (In a group of 14 young Catholics and Protestants arrested by the government in 2011, he was freed in August 2015). In his blogs he exposed local government corruption and backed the fishermen who are demanding compensation from the Formosa Hà Tĩnh Steel Corporation, which Hanoi said dumped toxic waste at sea, causing widespread fish deaths.

Vietnam was ranked the 18th most difficult country in which to live as a Christian according to the charity Open Doors’ World Watch List, which was released this month.