Dissident Vietnam blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ released, relocated to the US

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, center, known by her pen name Mother Mushroom, attends her appeal trial at a local people’s court on November 30, 2017 in the central coastal city of Nha Trang. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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Dissident Vietnam blogger ‘Mother Mushroom’ released, relocated to the US

  • Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was freed from jail Wednesday and put on a flight en route to the US
  • Officials did not give an official reason for relocating her

HANOI: A dissident Vietnamese blogger known by the pen name ‘Mother Mushroom’ was on her way to the United States Wednesday after being released from prison where she was serving 10 years for anti-state propaganda, multiple sources said.
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was freed from jail Wednesday and put on a flight en route to the US to join her children and mother, a US embassy source, friends, and a Vietnam official said.
“Quynh was sent to the US earlier today,” a Vietnamese government official confirmed, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Family friend Nguyen Lai said on Facebook “congratulations” to Quynh, adding she would soon be in a “free country.”
Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most well-known activists whose recognizable pen name “Me Nam” comes from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom,” was jailed in June 2017 in a case that drew ire from the US, the EU and the UN.
She is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s one-party state and gained notoriety with her writing about the environment, politics and deaths in police custody — a no-go topic in communist Vietnam.
Quynh became a cause celebre and received an International Woman of Courage Award in 2017, presented to her in absentia by US First Lady Melania Trump.
She was arrested in October 2016 after visiting a fellow activist in prison and even from jail she remained steadfast in her opposition to the communist government.
Her family said she held several hunger strikes in jail, most recently in July when she stopped eating for two weeks, according to the 88 Project, a political prisoner watchdog.
Earlier this year she was moved from a jail in her home province of Khanh Hoa to a prison hundreds of kilometers away, a move her relatives objected to because it made it harder to visit her.
Officials did not give an official reason for relocating her.
Quynh’s daughter also wrote an emotional letter addressed to Melania Trump.
Washington has developed strong ties with Vietnam to counterbalance a rising China and has come under fire for putting issues of free expression and human rights on the backburner, especially in Vietnam.
But Quynh’s release came as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the country for the second time this year, fueling speculation of a goodwill gesture from Vietnam’s leadership.


Pence presses Myanmar’s Suu Kyi to pardon Reuters journalists

Updated 14 November 2018
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Pence presses Myanmar’s Suu Kyi to pardon Reuters journalists

  • Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon in December 2017
  • Lawyers for the two Reuters reporters have lodged an appeal against their conviction

SINGAPORE: US Vice President Mike Pence pressed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi “multiple times” on Wednesday to pardon two Reuters journalists jailed in her country, a senior White House official said.
Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested in Yangon in December 2017. They were found guilty in September of breaching the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Pence met Suu Kyi on the sidelines of an Asia summit in Singapore.
“He raised the case of two Reuters journalists in particular and raised the request that a pardon could be made,” a senior White House official told reporters on condition of anonymity. “They had a very candid exchange of views on that.”
The White House official said Pence urged Suu Kyi directly to pardon the Reuters journalists “multiple times.”
The official declined to comment on Suu Kyi’s response in the closed-door meeting.
Lawyers for the two Reuters reporters have lodged an appeal against their conviction.
At the time of their arrest in December, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were working on a Reuters investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim villagers during an army crackdown in Rakhine state.