Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Chinese `New York Times' researcher to be freed from jail


A New York Times researcher convicted in China of fraud is scheduled to be released from prison this weekend, a newspaper spokeswoman said.

Zhao Yan (趙岩) was convicted of a US$2,500 fraud last year but was acquitted of a more serious charge of revealing state secrets. He was sentenced to three years but could have received a 10-year term.

The Times learned of Zhao's imminent release on Thursday, spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said. Zhao's family had been told about his release, scheduled for today, she said.

"We're looking forward to welcoming Zhao Yan," Times executive editor Bill Keller said.

Zhao's case has drawn international attention amid efforts by China's communist government to tighten controls on the media. Dozens of reporters have been jailed, often on charges of violating China's vague secrecy and security laws.

On Aug. 25 last year the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court convicted Zhao of taking US$2,500 from a man on a false promise that he would use his connections to have the man's 18-month sentence in a labor camp rescinded, according to state media reports.

Zhao, who had been detained for almost two years before his conviction, said he never took the money.

The court concluded there was insufficient evidence to convict Zhao on the more serious charge of revealing state secrets. The government did not release details of that charge, but the case was believed to stem from a Times report on then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) plans to relinquish his post as head of the military.

Before joining the Times in 2004, Zhao was an investigative reporter for Chinese publications and wrote about complaints of official corruption and abuses in the countryside.

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