The wife of the imprisoned activist, Nguyen Van Dai, has appealed to President Obama to seek her husband’s release when he visits Vietnam later this month.
Vu Minh Khanh told a congressional committee in Washington that her husband was facing up to 20 years in prison on charges of conducting propaganda against the state.
Nguyen Van Dai, a prominent pro-democracy campaigner and human rights lawyer, was hauled away by police from his home in December as he prepared to meet European diplomats.
He is one of the best known of the hundred or so political prisoners in Vietnam.
Human rights advocates are hoping that President Obama will use his influence to demand an easing of repression and the release of political prisoners during his three day visit from May 22.
Ms Khanh said her husband had not been allowed access to family members or lawyers since his arrest. She was unaware whether or not he had received food parcels she regularly delivered to the prison.
“In Vietnam, the public security force can do whatever they want,” she told the committee. She has been visiting the United States and other countries in a desperate bid to help her husband.
She told the congressman that Dai was badly beaten up by unidentified thugs the week before his arrest, just after he had attended a human rights training session.
She said his release would symbolise President Obama’s support for human rights and democracy in Vietnam.
Two Republican congressmen also called on the president to demand concessions on human rights during his visit to Vietnam.
“The administration seems eager to proceed with lucrative trade deals and to lift the ban on lethal arms sales to Vietnam, without imposing any real conditions,” said Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey in remarks quoted by the Associated Press.
Congressman Ed Royce of California said the situation in Vietnam was not improving and human rights needed to be top of the president’s agenda.