April 17, 2006

NYT researcher in China may still be tried: lawyer

BEIJING (Reuters) - One day before Chinese President Hu
Jintao's U.S. trip, lawyers for a detained Chinese employee of
the New York Times said they were told on Monday prosecutors
were again considering whether to seek his trial.

Zhao Yan was detained in September 2004 on charges of
revealing state secrets abroad after the Times reported that
former Chinese President Jiang Zemin planned to abandon his
military posts -- a report that turned out to be accurate.

Later, prosecutors issued an indictment to try Zhao on a
state secrets charge related to information about military
rivalry between Hu and Jiang, as well as a lesser charge of

In a dramatic reversal, a Beijing court in March agreed to
prosecutors' request to withdraw the indictment, raising
defense hopes that Zhao would soon be released.

But Zhao's attorney, Mo Shaoping, told Reuters on Monday
the prosecution official in charge of the case said prosecutors
had "revived" the period for considering whether to press for

The official told Mo's office the new period for
considering whether to seek a trial began on March 20, Mo said.
That meant, in normal circumstances, that prosecutors would
have until about May 5 to decide, Mo added.

Mo, who often represents Chinese dissidents, said he
believed the prosecution had no legal basis for "reviving" the
period of considering possible trial, having shelved the
previous indictment.

"There's no legal or procedural basis for this decision.
It's not supported by the law," Mo said. "But there's now quite
a chance they may apply for Zhao Yan's trial."

Mo said the prosecution official would not specify what
charges were now under consideration.

"I just can't say whether it's the same crimes, or just
one. It's all unclear," Mo said.

He said he believed Chinese law required that Zhao be freed
immediately after the previous prosecution case was dropped.

On Tuesday, Hu is due to leave Beijing for a four-day visit
to the United States. President Bush is likely to raise human
rights issues with Hu, as well as trade concerns.

Senior U.S. diplomats have repeatedly raised Zhao Yan's
case with Chinese officials and called for his release.