Fri, Mar 24, 2006 - Page 4 News List

`NY Times' researcher still in jail

CAPTIVE Despite calls at home and in the US for his release, Zhao Yan was still in detention although charges against him are said to have been dropped

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Chinese prosecutors turned back the sister of detained New York Times researcher Zhao Yan (趙岩) yesterday when she tried to press for his release after charges of revealing state secrets and fraud were dropped against him.

The Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court agreed last Friday to a decision by prosecutors to drop the charges against Zhao in a surprise concession ahead of President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) visit to the US next month.

But Zhao was still in detention at noon yesterday.

His sister, Zhao Kun (趙琨), said she had been told that the prosecutor handling Zhao's case was at a detention center and could not meet her.

"I don't know why they haven't released him. But I want to know when they will let him go," the sister said.

State department call

Echoing the call for Zhao's release, US embassy spokesman Sheila Paskman, quoting a State Department statement said, "Our embassy in Beijing continues to press for Zhao Yan's release."

"Mr Zhao should be released on the lack of new charges," Paskman said.

Prosecutors and security officials may want to ensure that Zhao cannot press for compensation after possible release, said Li Baiguang (李柏光), a legal expert who is a close friend of Zhao's.

Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping (莫少平), said on Wednesday Chinese authorities would be breaking the law if they held Zhao past midnight on Wednesday when his five-day appeal period expires.

Technically, Zhao could reject the decision to drop charges against him and seek a court trial for a not-guilty verdict, but he has decided against appealing, the lawyer said.

Mo added on Thursday that he did not know why Zhao was still being detained.

"He is being illegally held in the absence of charges," Mo said. "The whole of the indictment against him has been withdrawn."

But the New York Times said in an article on the weekend that the situation may not be as clear as Mo had indicated, and that potentially not all charges had been dropped.

The US embassy's Paskman said the US government was trying to seek clarification.

Zhao was arrested in September 2004 and had faced 10 years in jail after the state security apparatus charged him with telling the New York Times details of the rivalry between President Hu and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin (江澤民).

His arrest came days after the Times reported that Jiang had offered to resign as chairman of the Central Military Commission, his last official post.

Before starting work for the New York Times in early 2004, Zhao established a reputation as a crusading journalist who focused on rural corruption and discontent.

Hu's visit

The White House said on Wednesday that Hu would meet US President George W. Bush in Washington on April 20 on what would be his first formal visit as president to the US.

Hu's previous trip to Washington was canceled due to Hurricane Katrina, although he visited the UN in New York.

Beijing often times the release of dissidents to coincide with visits by top Chinese leaders to the US, or senior US officials to China.

This story has been viewed 2151 times.
TOP top