One of Vietnam’s most prominent political prisoners, Cu Huy Ha Vu, has been released from jail and arrived in the United States with his wife, sources in the U.S. said Monday, in a move his son said had been expected for some time.
Vu, 56, a rights lawyer who was imprisoned on anti-state charges and is suffering from heart trouble, and his wife Nguyen Thi Duong Ha reached the U.S. capital Washington D.C. on Monday, according to a source speaking on condition of anonymity.
Vu, who was less than three and a half years into a seven-year jail term, had been released from prison on Sunday night local time and immediately put on a plane to the United States at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport, the source told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
A U.S. congressman who had campaigned for Vu’s release said in a statement Monday afternoon that the dissident was “now a free man.”
“Vietnam has finally listened to the international outcry over its unlawful imprisonment of Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu and released him from prison,” said Ed Royce, a representative from California who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“Due to his heart condition, Dr. Vu’s health worsened by the year, and I welcome the news that he is now a free man,” he said.
Vu’s son Cu Huy Ha Hieu, who lives in Sydney, Australia, said he had been expecting his father would be freed and leave Vietnam for the U.S., but that by Monday afternoon he had still not heard from his parents about any release.
“Last weekend, my mother told me that it was possible they would be heading to the U.S. soon,” Hieu told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
“But I guess it’s happened so quickly I haven’t had a chance to reach them,” he said.
Vu’s case had prompted calls from the U.S. State Department and global rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who said the charges against him were politically motivated and part of a crackdown on online dissent.
A well-known legal expert who had twice tried to sue Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung for abuse of power, Vu was arrested in November 2010 over articles calling for a multiparty state in Vietnam.
He was convicted five months later of “conducting propaganda against the state” and sentenced to seven years in prison followed by three years of probation.
The verdict prompted “deep concern” from the U.S. State Department, which said his case had raised questions about Vietnam’s commitment to the rule of law and called for his immediate release.
Vu lodged an appeal against his conviction, but it was rejected in August 2011.
His wife and international rights groups had raised concerns over the past year that Vu was suffering from heart problems and high blood pressure and was not getting adequate medical care in detention.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Khanh Nguyen and Khiem Le. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.