Defending Mẹ Nấm, a Catholic blogger jailed for defending the environment
by Thanh Thuy

The activist was arrested on 10 October for "propaganda against the state." She had written many articles against the Formosa Plastics Group and the pollution crisis in the central provinces. Catholics and others sign a letter stating that “Mẹ Nấm is innocent and hundreds of thousands of people are fighting with her."

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh "is innocent and her work has always been legal. She has always shown responsibility for her children, family, younger generations and country,” this according to a message signed by thousands of Catholics, intellectuals and members of civil society and addressed to the authorities on behalf of Mẹ Nấm, pen name of the blogger arrested on 10 October.

The Catholic activist was jailed in Khánh Hòa province (southern Vietnam) under Article 88 of the Criminal Code, which punishes "propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam."

The evidence against her are the articles she wrote about the environmental disaster that struck Vietnam’s central provinces in April, most notably ‘The fish need clean water, the government be transparent’, ‘Condemn the Formosa Group’, ‘No to the Formosa Group’, and ‘No Chinese expansionism’.

The Formosa Plastics Group is a Taiwanese conglomerate whose steel mill is responsible for the discharge of pollution that killed 70 tonnes of fish and affected the lives of more than 200,000 people in the provinces of Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, Huế e Quảng Bình.

Mẹ Nấm has been one of the most resolute bloggers in denouncing poverty among fishermen and the injustice of government suppression of demonstrations in favour of the environment.

The 37-year-old woman has two children who have been living with their grandmother since her arrest. "I hope my daughter will soon be out of jail and back with her children,” Tuyết Lan said. “I can only put trust in God and believe in Him."

Her family is not allowed to go to visit her in prison and the authorities have not provided her a lawyer.

After she denounced the damage caused by bauxite mining in northern Vietnam, Mẹ Nấm was arrested and held for nine days in 2009.

Since then, the activist has worked with the Vietnam Blogger Network (VBN) on several projects in defence of human rights and the environment.

The VBN posted a message after her arrest in which it defines Mẹ Nấm as "a brave woman. She is not only brave for meeting the challenges to her faith and family, but also the intimidation and oppression that she has been subjected to by local authorities."

The message from the civil society group ends with a statement that Mẹ Nấm is not the alone in fighting for environmental protection. "There are hundreds of thousands of people protesting against economic projects that pollute the environment."