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China 16 June 2006

No verdict in Zhao Yan trial as court ignores legal deadline

Reporters Without Borders expressed concern today at the "completely illegal" handling by the authorities of the case of New York Times employee Zhao Yan, who faces the death penalty for "fraud" and "revealing state secrets." The organisation calls for the immediate release of the laureate of the 2005 Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize.

No verdict has been announced within the official six-week time limit (which expired on 25 July) after his behind closed doors trial on 16 June by the Beijing no. 2 intermediate court.

The New York Times has applied for his release and his lawyer, Guan Anping, said it was hoped the authorities would "recognise the irregularities in the case and take a just decision."

16.06.07 - Zhao Yan tried quickly behind closed doors, without witnesses appearing in court


The way New York Times researcher Zhao Yan was tried today in Beijing on charges of divulging state secrets and fraud - behind closed doors, in just a few hours, without witnesses being questioned and with just documents being read out - was “disgraceful”, Reporters Without Borders said.

“This summary trial was clearly determined by political and partisan interests and violated the most elementary defence rights,” the press freedom organisation said. “What kind of judicial system would have us believe it can try someone on such a serious charge in just one day?”

Zhao’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told Reporters Without Borders that the trial, held before the Beijing People’s Intermediate Court No. 2, was over. “The court followed the formal procedure” but had not yet given its verdict, he said. Although no witnesses were questioned, Zhao was present and was able to speak, pleading not guilty, he said. Another defence lawyer said Zhao appeared to be in better health than during his first few months in detention.

The lawyers were not supposed to comment on the trial as the charges included divulging state secrets, for which Zhao faces a possible death sentence.

Zhao’s sister, Zhao Kun, asked to attend the trial but the judicial authorities refused her request. She nonetheless went to the courthouse with several friends and foreign journalists.

Zhao, laureate of the 2005 Reporters Without Borders press freedom prize, was detained on 17 September 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. He was formally placed under arrest a month later, on 20 October 2004.

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