A Catholic human rights blogger in Vietnam who was accused of “conducting propaganda” could be facing torture as authorities continue to keep her whereabouts a secret.
Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn, popularly known for her blogger name Mother Mushroom, was arrested on Oct. 10 in Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa Province, on her way to visit an activist friend in prison. Her house was searched and her computer and other belongings were seized by the police, according to Amnesty International.
It is not known where she is presently being held.
Authorities have charged Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn with “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88 of the Vietnam Penal Code. According to state media, her arrest had something to do with her years of writing and sharing articles on social media that criticize the state and the Communist Party.
State media specifically mentioned an article she shared on Facebook, which was about the death of 31 people who died at the hands of the police while they were being questioned for “causing detriment to national security and social safety and order.”
If convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison. She could also be held incommunicado for up to two years, a common practice in Vietnam for people arrested or charged with crimes against the state.
The Ministry of Public Security claimed she was arrested because she fiercely opposed authorities and did not obey the law despite repeated warnings, according to local media outlet Nguoi Viet.
Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn announced a hunger strike in protest of her arrest. She also demanded to have a lawyer present during police interrogation but her request was denied.
Vietnam launched an intensified crackdown on the opposition earlier this month for the purpose of “eradicating terrorism.”
Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn, 37, is a single mother of two. She founded the Vietnamese Bloggers Network in 2013. Because of her fight against injustice and human rights violations, she had experienced interrogation and harassment several times. She was also banned from leaving the country.
Amnesty International is urging individuals to help set Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn free by sending correspondence to the Vietnamese authorities demanding her relase, insisting that they provide information about where she is being detained and telling them not to torture her and to treat her according to the U.N. Standard Minimum Rules for prisoners.
Many people consider the arrest of Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn, who is a well-known blogger in Vietnam, as proof of an oppressive rule.
An online petition has been set up for the immediate and unconditional release of Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳn. According to the petition, Mother Mushroom’s focus on environmental issues, particularly her opposition to project Formosa’s harmful effects, could have provoked her arrest.