The reopening of judicial proceedings against detained New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, whose release had been awaited since 17 March, is an “aberration,” Reporters Without Borders said today, calling for him to be freed at once.
Zhao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said officials told him yesterday that the proceedings had been reopened on 20 March 2006 on the basis of the same charges as before. Mo said this was illegal, as the Chinese criminal code has no provision for a judicial investigation to be reopened in this fashion.
The winner of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France press freedom prize in 2005, Zhao has been held for the past 18 months on charges of “divulging state secrets” and “fraud.” His release had been awaited ever since the Beijing intermediate people’s court No. 2 told Mo on 17 March that the charges against him had been dropped.
When Zhao was not released, Mo began asking court officials for an explanation but got no reply until yesterday. The court and the Chinese government have still not officially confirmed that the case has been reopened.
Zhao was arrested on 20 October 2004 for allegedly revealing to his New York Times editors, before it was officially announced, that former President Jiang Zemin was about to resign from his last political post of influence.
Aged 42, Zhao is being held in a state security detention centre in Beijing, where he has reportedly lost 10 kilos in weight and is being denied certain medical treatment.