Hanoi (AsiaNews) - After two years in prison, the Vietnamese authorities have ordered the release of the well-known Catholic dissident blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, on condition that the activist moves to the United States of America.
Known as "Mẹ Nấm" (Mother Mushroom), the 39-year-old mother of two had been arrested in October 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of "propaganda against the state". The detention of the popular blogger, engaged on fronts such as human rights and industrial pollution, has attracted the criticism and appeals of some Western governments and international groups of activists.
The blogger's friends expressed joy online for her release. Nguyen Tin announces that "after numerous efforts, the family of Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh has gathered in a free country". The pro-democracy groups, however, remember the many dissidents are still prisoners in the prisons of the communist regime.
Last July, well-known human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and colleague Le Thu Ha were freed and forced into exile in Germany, about two months after a harsh sentence for "activities aimed at overthrowing the state ". On 5 April, Dai had been sentenced to 15 years in prison and five years of house arrest, while he was nine years in prison.
According to a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last February there are currently 129 political prisoners , in the country of Southeast Asia arrested for criticizing or protesting against the communist regime; accusations rejected by Hanoi, according to which there are no prisoners for crimes of opinion, but only criminals punished for violating the law. Vietnam occupies one of the lowest steps in the world for freedom of the press: according to the index published in 2017 by the NGO Reporters Without Borders, it is ranked 175 out of 180 countries.
Since 2016, activists and bloggers have been the targets of a government campaign against dissent. Opponents of the regime suffer daily harassment, intimidation, police surveillance and interrogation and are subjected to long periods of prior detention without access to lawyers or family members. Even the Catholic community has paid the price for its commitment. The harsh sentences sent to Catholic activists are frequent, as evidenced by the recent cases Nguyễn Văn Oai (five years in prison), Trần Thị Nga (nine) and Nguyễn Văn Hóa (seven).
Photo: public domain files