May 27, 2006

China sets trial date for detained NYT researcher

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has set a preliminary trial date
for a New York Times researcher accused of leaking state
secrets, who has been held since September 2004 without
appearing before a judge, his lawyer said on Saturday.

Researcher Zhao Yan's case was dropped in March, raising
hopes at the time of his imminent release, but in mid-May
authorities revived it again.

"The trial is set to begin on June 8," Zhao's layer, Mo
Shaoping, told Reuters by telephone, but added that this was
just a preliminary date and could still be changed.

Zhao faces a 10-year jail term after the state security
apparatus accused him of telling the New York Times details of
rivalry between President Hu Jintao and his predecessor, Jiang

China dropped the charge along with a lesser fraud charge
in a move seen as a surprise concession just before Hu's visit
to Washington in April.

However Zhao remained in custody and earlier in May
prosecutors told Mo they had re-transferred the case to the
Beijing Second Intermediate Court. Mo said at the time the move
had no legal basis under Chinese criminal procedure.

Hu presented a softer line on human rights during the U.S.
trip, but just weeks after his return China has put on trial,
or is set to try, a string of journalists and Internet writers.

China broadly defines as a state secret anything that
affects the security and interests of the state and it is
suspicious of any independent organization dealing with
sensitive issues.

Rights groups say the laws are arbitrary enough to be
manipulated for political purposes.