Nguy Thi Khanh, a prominent campaigner for the environment who convinced Vietnam to reduce the amount of coal in its national energy plan, has been jailed for two years after being found guilty of tax evasion.
The 46-year-old globally recognised climate and energy campaigner, was sentenced in Hanoi on June 17, her NGO said on Saturday. A court official confirmed the sentence to the AFP news agency without giving any further details.
Khanh was arrested in February “on a tax evasion accusation”, according to state-owned media.
In 2018, she become the first Vietnamese to win the Goldman Environmental Prize, after convincing officials to strip 20,000 megawatts of coal power from the national energy plan by 2030.
“From her contribution to Vietnamese society and her works, the verdict given to Khanh was too harsh,” her environmental NGO GreenID told AFP, referring to the two-year sentence.
Michael Sutton, the Goldman Environmental Prize executive director, called for Khanh’s release.
“We believe that the legal charges levelled against her are part of a wider effort to silence environmental leaders in Vietnam,” said Sutton.
Prior to her detention, Khanh had said she wanted Vietnam to scale back its ambitious coal plans in favour of more renewable energy options.
In a 2020 interview with AFP, she acknowledged the risks of her activism.
“When we got global recognition, vested interest groups recognised who their enemy is, and they are very powerful,” she said.
Khanh’s imprisonment comes as raids targeting corrupt officials and those implicated in economic scandals have intensified.