URUMQI, China, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Chinese dissident Gao Zhisheng, released last week after three years' imprisonment, was "utterly destroyed" by his incarceration, his lawyer said.
Gao, a lawyer who defended religious minorities in China, lost teeth and weight through malnutrition, and was emotionless and "basically unintelligible" when he was released, Jared Gensher said.
"He is able to say a few words here and there and answering questions in a few words, describing what he went through," Gensher added, "but he's not capable of holding any conversation and there are many occasions where he's just literally just muttering to himself."
The U.S.-based advocacy group Freedom Now said Gao lost 44 pounds while essentially in solitary confinement during his captivity in a western Xinjiang province prison. According to Freedom Now, Gao's wife, Geng He, said after his release, "The only thing I feared more than him being killed was his suffering relentless and horrific torture and being kept alive."
Gao has been a campaigner for religious freedom in China, and most notably defended adherents to the Falun Gong spiritual discipline group. He was arrested in 2009, accused of inciting subversion. Then, after his 2010 release and his claim of being tortured in jail, he disappeared. Chinese state media said in 2011 he received a three-year prison sentence for a probation violation.
Western countries and the United Nations urged China to release Gao.