Published June 30, 2017
A Vietnamese court has sentenced a Catholic blogger to 10 years in prison for propaganda against the communist government, a sentence that activists describe as "heavy." Mary Magdelene Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, 38, also known as "Mother Mushroom," was tried at the People's Court of Khanh Hoa province in Nha Trang City, June 29. The roads leading up to the court were blocked while police lined the streets. Many lawyers have spoken out in Quynh's support via Facebook saying the sentence is too "heavy and inhumane." "I am really surprised by the 10-year sentence that shows the government's inhumanity to a single young mother," Catholic lawyer Le Cong Dinh said. "I did not realize what a state of panic the ruling party is in." However, he said, "It is certain that in her lifetime she will witness the death knell of the regime that sentenced her." Only three of the five lawyers Quynh had requested were present at the trial. Her lawyers demanded the trial be postponed but the judges rejected the appeal. One lawyer was refused the opportunity to meet with Quynh before the trial. Sources said the judges did not listen to the lawyers' arguments and handed down an arranged sentence. Quynh, a co-founder of a network of bloggers, was found guilty of "conducting propaganda against the communist government" under Article 88 of the Criminal Law. According to the indictment, the defendant posted Facebook posts between 2012 and 2016 "criticizing and deforming the Communist Party's policies and history, and dividing national solidarity." She posted a document titled "Stop police killing civilians" about 31 cases of people who had died while in police detention. Quynh was also accused of conducting campaigns for freedom, democracy and human rights in 2015, denying the Party's leadership, giving interviews to foreign news agencies where she spoke badly about the government. During the court hearing, lawyers reportedly proved that Quynh did not violate any laws "because she expressed her own opinions on Facebook that conformed to the rules." Loyal to her commitment
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Quynh's mother, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Lan, was not permitted to enter the courtroom and had to watch the trial through a screen in a room nearby. She wrote on Facebook that the heavy sentence aims to take revenge against her daughter who tried to tell the truth. Lan said she and Quynh's two young children had only met with Quynh for five minutes before the trial since she was arrested on Oct. 10, 2016. "Every person has only one life. But if I had to replay my life, I would still have done the same thing. I believe my mother and children will never feel sorry for me but be proud of me," Quynh said in court. "I want to build a good society. People can only be happy and free when they enjoy freedom of speech and expression," Quynh said. "I hope people will continue the struggle and overcome their fears to build a better country."