An international rights group has called upon the Vietnamese government to free a Catholic female activist imprisoned for her defense of human rights. Vietnam's government should "immediately and unconditionally release Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh
," Civil Rights Defenders said in a statement to mark the one-year anniversary of her arbitrary arrest and detention on Oct. 10, 2016. Quynh, known by her pen name "Me Nam" or "Mother Mushroom," was arrested
while she and other activists visited a rights defender in prison in Khanh Hoa province. Last June, a provincial court sentenced Quynh to 10 years in prison under
Article 88 of the Penal Code, for "conducting propaganda against the state." Quynh had criticized the government's human rights abuses and corruption. She investigated and published widely on environmental protection, public health, correctional reform and anti-torture efforts. She was also critical of Vietnam's foreign policy toward China over disputed islands in the South China Sea. The Swedish-based Civil Rights Defenders described her arrest and ongoing detention "as nothing more than persecution against her courageous defense of human rights." As a prisoner of conscience, the group said, Quynh "has the right to remedy, including necessary medical attention, which Vietnam should ensure without conditions." The statement also asked the government to immediately end its wider persecution of bloggers and journalists under Article 88, which "is often used to silence and imprison peaceful government critics and human rights defenders for exercising their right to the freedom of expression and opinion." "Vietnam should amend or abolish those sections of the penal code that do not comply with its obligations under international law," it said.