Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh during her trial in the southern coastal city of Nha Trang on 29 June 2017.

A Vietnamese Catholic blogger arrived in the United States last week after she was released from jail unexpectedly, reports the Catholic news site UCAN.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom”, was sentenced in June last year to ten years in prison for posting what police described as anti-state reports. In November she failed in her attempt to overturn her prison sentence.

The 39-year-old mother of two was a popular blogger, known for her environmental campaigns and support for political prisoners.

After her initial sentencing in June, Quynh said: “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.

“I want to build a good society. People can only be happy and free when they enjoy freedom of speech and expression. I hope people will continue the struggle and overcome their fears to build a better country.”

While it is unclear why she was suddenly freed, US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis was on a second visit to Vietnam at the time. He had been in Hanoi in January also, said Al Jazeera.

Quynh was released after spending just over two years in prison and exiled to the US where her mother and children live, according to UCAN.

The Network of Vietnamese Bloggers group, which Quynh co-founded, said in a statement that she would continue her fight for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.

“A new stage in the life of a woman who fights tirelessly for human rights, national sovereignty and environmental protection will begin,” the network said.

Government crackdown

Meanwhile Vietnam continues to hand out harsh sentences in what Human Rights Watch said last week is a government crackdown on activists. Last Thursday (18 October) an appeals court upheld John Baptist Le Dinh Luong’s 20-year prison sentence and five years of home detention for trying to overthrow the government, reported UCAN.

The president of the Paris-based Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vo Van Ai, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in April that the government had used “national security” as an excuse to detain Vietnamese and international civil society activists, and to discriminate against non-recognised religions in Vietnam.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said at the time that it wanted Vietnam to be added to the US State Department’s religious-freedom watch list.