A United Nations panel of independent legal experts has called for the immediate release of jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention says China should also free the Nobel Laureate's wife, Liu Xia, from house arrest.
It says both should be entitled to compensation.
Mr Liu was sentenced to 11 years in jail in December 2009 for inciting the subversion of state power. The writer, now 55, had co-authored Charter 08, a manifesto that quickly spread on the Internet calling for political reform and greater rights in Communist-ruled China.
The UN experts said Liu was held 'incommunicado' and denied access to a lawyer before being sentenced. They also criticised the fairness of the trial, during which Liu had just 14 minutes to defend himself.
His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize last year - even though she has not been charged with any offence.
The working group's judgements were made public by the US-based human rights group Freedom Now, which represents the couple.
On Monday, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that Washington agrees with the UN panel's opinion that China must immediately release the couple from “arbitrary detention” and grant reparations.
But the UN panel has no power to enforce its opinions and China has long maintained that the activist Liu Xiaobo was given a fair trial.
Report: UN panel calls for Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo's release [BBC News, 2 August 2011]
Report: UN Panel: China’s Detention of Liu Xiaobo Violates International Law [Voice of America, 1 August 2011]
Report: China jailing Nobel winner broke international law: UN [Straits Times, 1 August 2011]
Separately, the US has urged Vietnam to immediately release prominent dissident Cu Huy Ha Vu, after a court upheld his seven-year jail sentence for speaking out against the state.
"We continue to urge the government of Vietnam to immediately release Mr. Vu as well as all other prisoners of conscience and believe that no individual should be imprisoned for exercising the right to free speech," Toner said.
Vu, the son of a revolutionary leader, was detained in November after twice trying to sue Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung over a controversial bauxite mining plan and a decree that prevented class-action petitions.
He was officially accused of spreading propaganda against the state, but Vu claims he was targeted by the government for causing the Prime Minister to lose face.
Report: US urges Vietnam to free top dissident [AFP, 2 August 2011]
The news comes amidst strengthening ties between the US and Vietnam. On Monday, the two countries opened their first formal military relationship since their war.
The US and Vietnamese militaries signed an agreement in Hanoi to cooperate on health issues, such as training and research collaboration in military medicine.
Last month, the US and Vietnam held a joint naval drill. But Monday's deal marks the first formal military agreement since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1995.
The US navy said the deal was not about politics, but rather about meeting global health challenges. But tensions are currently running high between Vietnam, the Philippines, and China over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The US has repeatedly stressed its commitment to freedom of navigation and peace in the region.
Report: US, Vietnam start first military relationship [AFP, 1 August 2011]
However, a number of members of the US Congress have voiced alarm about the eagerness to build relations with Vietnam, saying that President Barack Obama's administration should condition assistance on improvements in human rights.
Last week, Vietnam also re-arrested another dissident, Catholic priest and leading democracy advocate Nguyen Van Ly. He had previously been released for treatment of a brain tumour.
Speaking to reporters, Toner said: "Our bilateral relationship with Vietnam is in general very good, but we do have serious concerns about human rights issues and we're going to continue to press that."
Report: Sentence Upheld for Prominent Vietnamese Dissident [Voice of America, 2 August 2011]