Vietnam has freed a well-known blogger after two years in prison on the condition that she leaves for the US, the AP reports. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as "Mother Mushroom," was arrested in October 2016 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of defaming the Communist government. The conviction of the popular blogger, who wrote about human rights and industrial pollution, drew criticism from some Western governments and international human rights groups. Friends of the 39-year-old blogger said she was on her way to the US with her mother and two young children. "After numerous efforts, the family of Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was reunited in a free country," her friend Nguyen Tin wrote on his Facebook page. Quynh's lawyer, Ha Huy Son, said her release was good news but did not lift the obstacles faced by people who fight for democracy in Vietnam.
Nicholas Bequelin of Amnesty International, said in a statement, "While Mother Mushroom is no longer imprisoned, the condition for her release was exile and there are over one hundred people languishing in jail because they peacefully spoke their mind." Vietnam has stepped up a crackdown on dissent over the past two years with dozens of activists and bloggers put on trial for national security law-related offenses. Despite sweeping economic reforms since the mid-1980s that opened Vietnam to foreign investment and trade and made it one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, Communist authorities tolerate no challenge to their one-party rule. There are more than 100 "prisoners of conscience" in Vietnamese prisons, according to Amnesty International. (Governments reportedly use online trolls to crush dissent.)