Sat, 27 Apr 2019

Vietnamese blogger and activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh-known by her blogger handle Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom- was freed from jail Wednesday and put on a flight to the United States, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency reported from Hanoi.

"Quynh was sent to the U.S. earlier today," AFP quoted a Vietnamese government official as saying. The agency said she would to join her children and mother in the United States.

Arrested in October 2016, the 39-year-old Quynh was sentenced in June 2017 to 10 years in jail on charges of spreading "propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of Vietnam's Penal Code.

Quynh's detention, during which she staged several hunger strikes, was one of the more high profile cases of activists handed heavy sentences as part of an ongoing crackdown by the one-party state in the Southeast Asian nation, which holds more than 100 political prisoners and adds more to the list every week.

Phil Robertson, Bangkok-based deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch welcomed Quynh's freedom, but slammed Hanoi for what he called a campaign to "disrupt and dissolve the internal human rights and democracy movement one prominent activist at a time."

"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.

"Then when hope fades in the face of years in horrific conditions behind bars, offer a freedom for exile deal and claim credit for the release," Robertson said in a statement.

"No one should forget that Vietnam is still one of the most repressive states in Southeast Asia, with more than 100 political prisoners behind bars for speaking their minds, organizing associations outside of government control, and holding peaceful protests," he added.

Quynh had blogged about human rights abuses and corruption for more than a decade, and more recently voiced criticism over Vietnam's policy toward China's territorial claims in the South China Sea.

She has also criticized the government's response to a 2016 toxic waste spill by a Taiwanese firm that destroyed the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Vietnamese living in four coastal provinces.

Quynh received the International Woman of Courage Award in 2017, presented to her in absentia by U.S. First Lady Melania Trump.

Authorities have long targeted activist writers and bloggers in an ongoing crackdown in one-party Communist Vietnam, where dissent is not allowed.

Copyright 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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