Authorities in Vietnam have released dissident blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known by the pseudonym “Mother Mushroom”.
Quynh, 39, was freed from jail on Wednesday and put on a plane to the United States where her mother and children live.
“Quynh was sent to the US earlier today,” a Vietnamese government official confirmed to AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most well-known activists, whose recognisable pen name “Me Nam” comes from her daughter’s nickname “mushroom”, was jailed in June 2017.
She is an outspoken critic of Vietnam’s one-party state and gained notoriety with her writing about the environment, politics and deaths in police custody.
Quynh became a cause celebre and received an International Woman of Courage Award in 2017, presented to her in absentia by US First Lady Melania Trump.
She was arrested in October 2016 after visiting a fellow activist in prison but remained she remained steadfast in her opposition to the communist government even from jail.
Her arrest led to angry responses from the US, the European Union, the United Nations and human rights organisations.
“The overly broad, ill-defined scope of this law makes it all too easy to quash any kind of dissenting views and to arbitrarily detain individuals who dare to criticize government policies,” former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in 2016.
“We urge Vietnamese authorities to stop harassing independent bloggers, who represent the only alternative voice to the country’s otherwise state-controlled media, and allow all journalists to report without fear of reprisal such as trumped up anti-state charges,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said at the time.
While the Vietnamese authorities have not given a reason for the release of Quynh, it coincided with a visit to Vietnam by US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis. Mattis is on his second trip to Vietnam this year after visiting Hanoi in January.
Quynh is the second Vietnamese dissident released this year. A prominent human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, was released from prison in June and went to Germany.