Sun, May 28, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Beijing sets trial date for `New York Times' writer

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BEIJING

Chinese authorities have preliminarily fixed a June 8 trial date for a researcher for the New York Times who is accused of fraud and disclosing state secrets, his lawyer said on Friday.

The decision to try the researcher, Zhao Yan (趙岩), 44, who worked in the Beijing bureau of the Times, followed a move by prosecutors to revive the case against him after earlier dropping the indictment.

Zhao denies the charges.

In the Chinese legal system, fixing the date of a trial is often tantamount to a decision to convict. It is very rare that the accused is found innocent in a trial, particularly when the charges involve disclosing state secrets or subversion.

The definition of state secrets in China is extremely broad, and can even include routine economic statistics compiled by the government.

The decision to bring Zhao to trial comes as Chinese authorities continue one of the most sweeping crackdowns on the news media in decades. It is a campaign in which journalists and writers have been jailed, senior editors fired and news outlets reined in from covering issues the authorities have deemed a threat to political or social stability.

Zhao, a longtime journalist, has been in custody for 21 months without appearing before a judge.

Before his arrest on Sept. 17, 2004, he had worked for the Times for about four months.

The indictment confirmed that his arrest had been linked to the publication of an article in the Times reporting that a former president, Jiang Zemin (江澤民), had offered to resign from his position as chairman of the Central Military Commission, the final top post he held in the government.

The Times also denies that Zhao disclosed state secrets.

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