WASHINGTON (AP) — A prominent Vietnamese dissident whose father was an associate of the nation's founding president Ho Chi Minh arrived in the U.S. Monday after being released from prison by Vietnam, the State Department said.
Cu Huy Ha Vu arrived on a flight to Washington with his wife. He is a legal scholar and among the ruling Communist Party's highest-profile critics.
In a one-day trial, Vu was sentenced in April 2011 to seven years in prison and three years of house arrest on charges that included conducting propaganda against the state, calling for multiparty government and demanding the abolishment of the party's leadership.
"The United States welcomes the decision by Vietnamese authorities to release prisoner of conscience Dr. Cu Huy Ha Vu," Aaron Jensen, a spokesman for the State Department's bureau of democracy, human rights and labor, told The Associated Press.
Jensen said Vu and his wife, Nguyen Thi Duong Ha, had decided to travel to the U.S. after Vu's release. He provided no further details on the circumstance of the release, and a spokesman at the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington declined to comment.
Vu is among the many government critics who have been imprisoned as the one-party authoritarian state cracks down on dissent amid widespread concerns over its handling of a stuttering economy. He's among the highest-profile as his father Cu Huy Can was a revolutionary poet and a minister in Ho's government.
Vu was arrested in 2010 after attempting to sue Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung twice — first for approving a Chinese-built bauxite mining project in Vietnam's central highlands, and later for prohibiting the filing of class-action lawsuits. The first suit was rejected by a Hanoi court, and the second was ignored.
Vu reportedly went on hunger strike between late May and mid-June over alleged poor treatment in prison.
The U.S. has sought closer ties with its former enemy, Vietnam, in recent years, but relations have been hobbled by concerns over Hanoi's rights record. President Barack Obama, however, met current Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang at the White House last July.