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Courage of a woman jailed in Vietnam recognised

HO CHI MIHN (UCAN): Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, a Catholic blogger in Vietnam known as Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom, is one of 13 people named as a recipient of the Women of Courage Award by the government of the United States of America (US) for standing up for the rights and freedom of people.

On March 29, the US State Department announced the names of those to be honoured, describing them as “those who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength and leadership in acting to advance the lives of others across the globe.”

Nguyen, a mother of two, is the only one to receive her award in absentia, because she has been held incommunicado since October 2016 for publishing anti-government articles and fighting for prisoners of conscience.

Redemptorist Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh described Nguyen as a worthy winner for her “efforts to fight for freedom of speech, protect activists and stop cases of death in police custody.”

Father Le, who is himself an advocate for democratic values and human rights, condemned the government of his country for unfairly persecuting and imprisoning Nguyen and other women rights advocates.

Pham Thanh Nghien, a member of the Network of Vietnamese Bloggers co-founded by Nguyen, said the award recognises her tireless endeavours over the past decade.

On his Facebook post, the US ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, commended Nguyen for her bravery in “raising civil society issues, inspiring peaceful change, calling for greater government transparency and access to fundamental human rights and for being a voice for the freedom of expression.”

There are at least 84 prisoners of conscience in Vietnam, including bloggers, rights advocates, ethnic and religious minorities and advocates for social justice.

An Amnesty International report of July 2016 says that they have been convicted after unfair trials or are being held in pre-trial detention.

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