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article imageDissident Vietnam blogger 'Mother Mushroom' released, on way to US

By AFP     Oct 17, 2018 in World

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 told AFP.

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 told AFP.

"Quynh was sent to the US earlier today," a Vietnamese government official confirmed to AFP, 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 recognisable pen name "Me Nam" comes from her daughter's nickname "mushroom", was jailed in June 2017 in a case that drew ire from the United States, the European Union and the United Nations.

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 told AFP 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 kilometres 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 Defence Secretary Jim Mattis visited the country for the second time this year, fuelling speculation of a goodwill gesture from Vietnam's leadership.

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