HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Human Rights Watch said Monday it was concerned about the health of a prominent jailed Vietnamese dissident who has been on a hunger strike for 29 days.
Nguyen Van Hai, also known as Dieu Cay, is serving a 12-year prison term for conducting "propaganda against the state" in relation to his blogging and citizen media activities.
In a statement, the human rights group quoted Hai's son as saying his father was too weak to walk unaided when he was allowed to visit him for five minutes in prison on Saturday. Earlier this month, his ex-wife visited and Hai was dragged away when he told her about his hunger strike.
Human Rights Watch said Hai had reportedly undertaken the hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison.
"The government should also immediately release Dieu Cay without conditions, along with other prisoners held for exercising their rights to express their views and peacefully act on their beliefs," it said.
Hai is one of Vietnam's most celebrated dissidents. American President Barack Obama has raised his case publicly.
Later this week, Obama will meet Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang at the White House.
The U.S. administration has repeatedly called on Vietnam to release dissidents and allow freedom of expression in the communist country. The ruling party has shown few signs it is listening, apparently concerned that allowing greater political freedom would result in it losing power.
So far this year, 46 people have been convicted and sentenced for dissident activities, many of them bloggers.