Dissident Vietnam blogger 'Mother Mushroom' released, on way to US

Elias Hubbard
October 18, 2018

Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and South East Asia, said in a statement, "While Mother Mushroom is no longer imprisoned, the condition for her release was exile and there are over one hundred people languishing in jail because they peacefully spoke their mind - in public, on blogs or on Facebook".

"She is flying with her children and mother".

She was arrested for posting what police described as anti-state reports, including one about civilians dying in police custody.

"In prior conversations Ms. Quynh and her family clearly stated to USA officials that she wanted to come to the United States if released from prison", Reuters news agency quoted a spokeswoman for the department as saying.

A neighbor of Quynh in Nha Trang told RFA's Vietnamese that security agents surrounded her family's house throughout Wednesday.

A dissident Vietnamese blogger known by the pen name "Mother Mushroom" was on her way to freedom in the United States on Wednesday after being released from prison where she was serving 10 years for anti-state propaganda, sources told AFP.

She added that Vietnamese officials had kept her from having any contact with her son and daughter until the last minute.

Months later, Quynh's young daughter penned an emotional letter to Mrs Trump appealing for her mother to be freed.

"I'm delighted that she's out of jail, I know she was ill and I know her family has been terribly anxious about her", he told AFP.

"This release makes Vietnam's new political repression strategy clear: arrest activists on bogus, rights-abusing charges, prosecute them in kangaroo courts, and sentence them to ridiculously long prison terms", he wrote.

But Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's release came as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Vietnam, which has been keen to build ties with its old foe Washington as it nervously eyes the rise of its giant northern neighbour China.

A blogger and environmental activist, Quynh was among 13 women to receive an International Women of Courage Award a year ago.

Trump's predecessor Barack Obama met with several civil society activists and journalists when he visited Vietnam in 2016.

The blogger was sentenced to 10 years in jail last year, a heavy ruling that drew swift rebuke from the United States, the European Union and the UN. It began in 2016 when more conservative leaders gained top Communist party positions.

More than 55 bloggers, protesters and Facebookers have been jailed this year alone, with the length and frequency of sentences steadily rising.

Quynh is the second dissident released this year.

She also co-founded the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers, an independent writers' association.

Vietnam's Foreign Ministry and its embassy in Australia have been approached for comment.

In another indication that Vietnam is not likely to let up its punishment of critics, the activist Le Dinh Luong had his 20-year sentence upheld in an appeal trial on Thursday in Nghe An province.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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