BERLIN — A Vietnamese man charged with involvement in the kidnapping of a former Vietnamese oil executive in Berlin went on trial Tuesday in the German capital. The case has strained diplomatic ties between Berlin and Hanoi.
The 47-year-old, identified only as Long N.H. because of German privacy rules, is charged with espionage and being an accessory to deprivation of liberty.
German authorities say Trinh Xuan Thanh, the former chairman of PetroVietnam's construction arm, and a woman accompanying him were snatched off the street, bundled into a van and taken to Vietnam in July. Prosecutors say that the kidnapping was carried out by Vietnamese intelligence officials and other employees at the Vietnamese Embassy along with several Vietnamese who live in Europe.
Vietnam claims that Thanh, who was seeking asylum in Germany, returned voluntarily. Thanh was given two life sentences earlier this year for embezzlement.
The suspect who went on trial Tuesday at Berlin's state court is accused of providing logistical support for the operation.
Prosecutors say he rented the van used in the kidnapping in Prague three days before the kidnapping and drove it to Berlin, then drove it back immediately after the kidnapping. In between, he allegedly drove back to Prague another car that had been used to snoop on Thanh.
Prosecutor Lienhard Weiss told the court that the suspect had been aware of the basic details of the plan and approved of it, news agency dpa reported. Defendants don't enter formal pleas in Germany. Defence lawyer Stephan Bonell said he would make a statement at a later stage.
Germany accused Vietnam of breaking international law and last year kicked out the country's intelligence attache. The defendant was arrested in the Czech Republic, where he ran a currency exchange office, in August.
The Associated Press