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China 6 November 2006

Journalist Zhao Yan is denied appeal hearing

Reporters Without Borders said it was shocked at the decision of the Beijing High Court not to allow journalist Zhao Yan an appeal hearing. His lawyer will represent him simply through written submissions to the judges.

"Just days after journalist Ching Cheong was denied an appeal hearing, we learn that the New York Times researcher is also to be denied his fundamental right to a fair trial,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“In both these cases it looks like the Chinese justice system is afraid of the truth. It is vital that Zhao Yan, winner of the 2005 Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize, should be cleared of these monstrous fraud charges which hang over him,” it said.

The journalist was cleared in a lower court of the charge of having revealed state secrets but was sentenced to three years in prison for fraud, a charge which essentially relied on the evidence of a provincial official in Jilin and his relatives. Zhao has been in prison since 17 September 2004.

The Beijing High Court made its decision to refuse an appeal hearing on 2 November. Zhao’s lawyer, Guan Anping, will have to plead his case based on written submissions to the court. He will be allowed to present new written evidence and add new exhibits to the file. This form of trial could be held in the next two weeks.

At the first trial, the defence was denied the right to cross-examine prosecution witnesses. Zhao had asked for these witnesses to the appeal hearing to be submitted to a lie-detector test.

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