Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Me Nam)

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Quynh, popularly known by her pen name Me Nam (Mother Mushroom), was arrested on October 10, 2016, while trying to visit an imprisoned political activist in the central coastal town of Nha Trang.

Police forced Quynh and the activist’s mother into a car at the Song Lo prison facility, then drove to the blogger’s home, which is in the same town. Quynh was handcuffed and police searched her home and confiscated her computer and other electronic equipment, the reports said. According to news reports, at least 10 government vehicles and 50 police officials blocked the road leading to her house during the raid.

Quynh, who writes on her own blog and on platforms run by Vietnamese abroad, including Dan Lam Bao, was taken to Song Lo prison and charged under Article 88 of the penal code, a provision that carries maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for the vague crime of “propagandizing” against the state, according to the BBC. Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, told the independent blog Dan Lam Bao that police threatened to imprison Quynh for a “couple of years” while raiding her house.

During the raid on her home, police also confiscated placards with slogans calling on the Vietnamese government to file a legal case against the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics steel plant for its role in a toxic spill that caused mass fish deaths in April off the coast of Vietnam’s central Ha Tinh and nearby provinces, reports said. The environmental damage sparked rare public protests in Vietnam calling for official accountability and corporate responsibility for the disaster.

Police authorities accused Quynh of being a member of Viet Tan, an outlawed political party officials often blame for organizing and carrying out anti-government public protests.

A statement posted on the police website of Khanh Hoa province, where the city of Nha Trang is located, said Quynh was being held for posting anti-state news, including a report entitled “Stop police killing civilians” that compiled 31 cases in which people had died in police custody, news reports said. The police statement said the report showed “hostility towards the police force,” the reports said.

Quynh staged a hunger strike beginning on October 12, 2016, in response to her lack of legal representation in the investigation phase of the charges lodged against her, according to news reports.

On March 29, 2017, the U.S. State Department recognized Quynh in absentia with its International Women of Courage Award for bravery in raising civil society issues, inspiring peaceful change, and calling for greater government transparency and access to fundamental human rights, as well as being a voice for freedom of expression.

On June 29, a court in the central province of Khanh Hoa convicted Quynh of distributing propaganda against the state and sentenced her to 10 years in prison after a one-day trial, according to news reports. The court’s deputy judge Tran Huu Vien sent a letter to Quynh’s lawyers dated July 20 acknowledging that Quynh maintained her innocence and appealed her conviction, according to Danlambao, an independent blog.

On November 30, an appeals court ruled to uphold Quynh’s sentence. The blogger’s lawyer, Nguyen Ha Luan, said that Quynh maintained her innocence and that her reporting did not constitute a crime, the Associated Press reported.

Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Tuyet Lan, wrote in a Facebook post after a July 31 prison visit that Quynh suffered from severe cramping in her hands and legs and frequently felt dizzy due to low blood pressure. Prison authorities refused to deliver medicines for her conditions brought by her mother, the post and other reports said. Quynh was being held at Khanh Hoa province prison.