Vietnamese activist ‘Mother Mushroom’ freed from prison, granted asylum in the US


Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who is known by her online pseudonym, Me Nam — which translates to “Mother Mushroom” — touched down in the US late Wednesday, accompanied by her mother and two young children, according to Karen Tang, a US embassy spokeswoman.

A photo posted online by the Committee to Protect Journalists appears to show Nguyen and her two young children on board a flight out of Vietnam.

Nguyen, whose blog covered issues such as land confiscation, freedom of speech and police brutality, was released a year and a half into a 10-year sentence for “conducting anti-State propaganda” on Wednesday morning.

The blogger, famous for her tagline, “Who will speak if you don’t?” was arrested by the Department of Public Security on October 10, 2016, according to the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA), which referred to her in reports as an “anti-state instigator.”

She was convicted in June 2017.

In a statement provided to CNN, US embassy spokeswoman Karen Tang said that the US government had consistently called for the release of Quynh and other persons imprisoned in Vietnam for “exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

It added that the US would continue to call on the government of Vietnam to “immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and allow all Vietnamese citizens to express their political views without fear of retribution.”

‘She should never have been imprisoned’

Rights groups welcomed her release, but criticized the attached conditions. In a post on its website, Amnesty International also reminded the international community that Hanoi still had dozens of prisoners of conscience locked up.

“This good news, which comes as a relief after two years behind bars, should also be a reminder of Vietnam’s worsening record of jailing anyone who criticizes the regime,” Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and South East Asia Nicholas Bequelin said in the post.

“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.”

In a tweet, the CPJ, which awarded Nguyen its International Press Freedom Award, said that it also welcomed her release but added that her imprisonment was unjust.

“We are greatly pleased that Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh is finally free, but strongly reiterate that she never should have been imprisoned in the first place,” the post reads, attributed to Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative.

“Authorities should follow through on the move by releasing all the other journalists still wrongfully held behind bars in Vietnam.”

Nguyen will receive the CPJ award in New York next month.

Thorn in government’s side

Nguyen also came to the attention of authorities in 2009 for her outspoken views against China’s intervention in her country, including Beijing’s financing of a controversial bauxite mine in the Central Highlands.

She was the recipient of a Hellman/Hammett grant in 2010, which “recognizes courage in the face of political persecution,” Human Rights Watch said.

Nguyen was arrested and imprisoned for 10 days in 2009, for “abuse of democratic freedoms and infringing on the national benefit,” she told CNN in 2010.

As a condition of her release, she agreed to give up blogging, posting a handwritten letter on her site in which she explained that she loved her country, but that the government felt this was the wrong way to express herself. After being denied a passport two months later, she decided to blog again.

“I write another entry on my blog, that I gave up already, but they didn’t leave me alone,” she said. “I have to take the right to say what I think.”

The CPJ asserts that at least 10 journalists were imprisoned in Vietnam as of December 1, 2017. That figure includes Nguyen.

Source : Nbcnewyork