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Prominent Chinese activist released

A prominent Chinese dissident who was jailed for sedition more than three years ago has been released, his wife said.

A major figure in China's dissident community, Hu Jia was active in a broad range of civil liberties issues before he was imprisoned in 2008.

He returned home before dawn on Sunday, Hu's wife Zeng Jinyan said in an online message. "Safe, very happy. Needs to recuperate for a period of time," Zeng said in a Twitter message.

No one answered Zeng's phone, but she had said earlier she would announce his release on Twitter. She had visited him on Monday at the Beijing Municipal Prison.

Hu, 37, is known for his activism with Aids patients and orphans. The sedition charge stems from police accusations that he planned to work with foreigners to disturb the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Hu's release comes amid one of the Chinese government's broadest campaigns of repression in years as Beijing has moved to prevent the growth of an Arab-style protest movement.

There have been concerns that, like other dissidents released recently from jail, Hu might be kept under some sort of illegal detention.

In a posting last week, Zeng said that upon his release, Hu, who suffers from a liver ailment, would be deprived of his political rights for one year and will not be able to speak to the media.

"For this one year the focus should be on treating his cirrhosis, caring for parents and child, to avoid being arrested again," she wrote.

In late 2008, Hu won the European Parliament's top human rights award, the 50,000-euro Sakharov Prize. Hu was honoured in Strasbourg, France, where because he was in prison, his name was placed in front of an empty seat.

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