Leicester Post – Posted on Friday, June 30, 2017 by Orlando Rodriquez
A VIETNAMESE court on Thursday sentenced a prominent blogger and rights activist to 10 years in prison for criticising government policies and defaming the Communist regime on Facebook and in foreign media interviews.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, whose pen name derives from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom”, was arrested in October 2016 and later charged with anti-state propaganda over critical Facebook posts about politics and the environment.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) have also condemned today’s conviction and prison sentence of Quynh, calling for “her immediate and unconditional release“.
Vietnam denies jailing political prisoners without fair trial and at a news briefing regarding Quynh foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang tried to justify their decision. the Guardian reported.
In March 2009, Quynh spent nine days in police detention for receiving funds from Viet Tan, a California-based activist group which Vietnam calls a terrorist group, to print T-shirts carrying slogans against a major bauxite project in the Central Highlands, police said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State said it was deeply concerned about the conviction of Quynh, who she described as a 2017 International Woman of Courage awardee. She founded a network of bloggers in her homeland and has written about deaths in police custody, environmental disasters and human rights.
The US called on Vietnam to release Nguyen and “all other prisoners of conscience immediately”.
Human Rights Watch earlier decried the trial as “outrageous” and demanded her release. “Condemning her to 10 years in prison for her writing is an obscene injustice”. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 45 bloggers and rights activists were assaulted by plain-clothes government agents in 2015.
In 2015, Quynh was awarded the Civil Rights Defender of the Year by a Sweden-based global advocacy group.
In a previous interview with Civil Rights Defenders, Quynh said she was fighting for freedom of expression.
Those articles gave one-sided and superficial views that stirred up public worries and affected people’s trust in the Party’s leadership and the State’s governance and management of society, and incited people to resist the State, thus harming national security and social order and safety, the indictment said.
She is famous for using the tagline, “Who will speak if you don’t?” In a pre-sentence statement she admitted no guilt and instead used the opportunity to send a message to her two kids and mother, the lawyer added.
“The scandal here is not what Mother Mushroom said, but Hanoi’s stubborn refusal to repeal draconian, rights-abusing laws that punish peaceful dissent and tarnish Vietnam’s worldwide reputation”.
The United States, Britain and the European Union have all called for Quynh’s release.