World Bulletin / News Desk
Germany put on trial Tuesday the only suspect held over what it calls a brazen Cold War-style kidnapping by Vietnamese secret agents that has badly bruised bilateral ties.
The kidnapped man, Trinh Xuan Thanh, 52, who was seeking asylum in Germany, was quickly spirited back to Hanoi, where he was sentenced this year to two life terms in prison on corruption charges.
Germany condemned the July 23, 2017, operation as a "scandalous violation" of its sovereignty and a "gross violation of international law".
It expelled two Vietnamese diplomats, summoned the ambassador several times and put on ice a strategic bilateral partnership.
Communist-ruled Vietnam has insisted that Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction, returned voluntarily to face embezzlement charges.
Vietnam, like China, has recently convicted scores of figures from its business and political elite as part of an anti-graft drive which observers say also serves to settle scores between hardline and reformist factions.
German prosecutors are investigating a high-ranking Vietnamese security official, General Duong Minh Hung, who allegedly commanded the abduction in Berlin before returning to Vietnam, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily reported last month.
Hung is suspected of holding more than 100 cellphone talks or text message exchanges with the agents from his temporary "command centre" inside a hotel, a few blocks from the Tiergarten park where the abduction took place.
Long N.H., the van's alleged driver who was arrested in the Czech Republic on August 12 and extradited to Germany on August 23, is the only suspect in German custody.