Me Nam, or Mother Mushroom, the Vietnamese blogger who received the International Women of Courage Award from first lady Melania Trump in March has been formally charged by the Hanoi government for the very activities that earned her the honor, VOA Vietnamese reported.
The government charged Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, aka Mother Mushroom, with three criminal counts under Article 88 — "conducting propaganda against the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam." The vaguely worded law has drawn international denunciation for the power it gives the government to suppress dissent.
Quynh, 37, has been detained since Oct. 10, 2016. She faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty. She was the only honoree unable to attend the Washington, D.C., ceremony on March 29, because she was in prison.
Nguyen Ha Luan, a lawyer who represents Quynh, said that he and another lawyer, Le Luan, had been certified to represent her before the Khanh Hoa Province People's Court.
Two other lawyers, Vo An Don and Nguyen Kha Thanh, posted on Facebook that Quynh had requested their representation as well.
"Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh's dedication to exposing corruption, raising awareness about environmental protection, and reporting on human rights violations in Vietnam is an inspiration for activists everywhere and has made her one of Vietnam's best-known online activists," said Grace Choi, a spokeswoman for the State Department's East Asia-Pacific Office in March.
U.S. diplomats in Hanoi and Saigon posted news of Mother Mushroom's recognition to Facebook, attracting thousands of "likes" before the official ceremony. Vietnam's Foreign Ministry criticized the honor.
Quynh began blogging as Mother Mushroom in 2006. Among her recent campaigns, she blogged about the government's handling of a chemical spill at a Taiwanese-owned steel plant in the central Vietnam city of Ha Tinh. The spill killed 80 tons of fish, embarrassing and worrying the Vietnamese government as images of dead fish stacked on pristine beaches went viral worldwide and fishing communities lost their livelihood.
Thousands of protesters demonstrated at the plant and in cities throughout Vietnam, and the April 2016 Ha Tinh fish kill is widely seen as having raised environmental awareness and activism among Vietnamese.
The movement saw an early success when the Taiwanese-owned steel company accepted full responsibility for the fish kill and pledged to pay $500 million in damages for dumping toxic wastewater into the South China Sea.
This report originated with VOA Vietnamese.