A Vietnamese appeals’ court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence imposed on the internationally renowned Catholic activist known as Mother Mushroom. The American embassy in Vietnam immediately expressed deep concern over the punishment of 38-year-old Magdelene Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh for peaceful dissent. The prison term was imposed on a charge
of "anti-state propaganda" because she spoke out against human rights’ violations, poverty and corruption. The appeal against the sentence was rejected on Nov. 30. in the city of Nha Trang, widely known for beautiful beaches and scuba diving. Quynh took up blogging in 2006 after visiting a hospital where desperately poor people were going untreated because they could not afford to pay. She has since spoken out on a wide range of issues
, including in support of prisoners of conscience and against unfair government confiscation of land. Following the upholding of her prison sentence, activists outside the court raised banners, including one describing her punishment as a crime. Police at the scene allegedly assaulted protesters, including Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan. Police seized cameras as well as cell phones and several demonstrators were detained. A fellow Catholic activist said the appeal verdict against Quynh was illegal and constituted barbarous treatment of a patriot. Lawyer Vo An Don was prevented by the local Bar Association from representing Quynh because he had spoken critically to foreign media about the legal proceedings. Don maintained that Quynh
had simply been exercising a constitutional right to free speech when expressing personal views on social issues. The United States Chargé d’Affaires to Vietnam, Caryn McClelland, said the decade-long sentence on a “vague charge” was deeply troubling. McClelland called on Vietnam to immediately release Quynh and all prisoners of conscience. The US representative also urged Vietnam to ensure its Penal Code and other laws are made consistent with the protection of human rights.