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China to release jailed NYT researcher sentenced for fraud

[JURIST] Zhao Yan [JURIST news archive], a New York Times researcher who was sentenced to three years in prison [JURIST report] for fraud in August 2006, is to be released on Saturday, according to Chinese prison officials. A Chinese court convicted Zhao of taking $2,500 from a village official, but dismissed more serious charges of illegally leaking state secrets to foreigners. If Zhao had been convicted on those charges, he could have faced an additional 10-year sentence in a high-security prison. Zhao was formally indicted [JURIST report] in December 2005 after a 2004 New York Times report [text] revealed the resignation of Jiang Zemin as head of the military before it was formally announced by the government. The charges were dropped in March 2006, but Chinese authorities continued to detain Zhao and eventually reinstated the charges, a process which Chinese officials maintained was legal [JURIST reports]. Human rights groups and journalism advocacy organizations have criticized the proceedings against Zhao for being politically motivated and without merit [CPJ alert]. During his trial, Zhao’s lawyers were not allowed to call witnesses on his behalf or permitted to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution.

The 2006 US Department of State Country Report [text; JURIST report] on China denounced repeated government threats to and arrests of journalists, especially those using the Internet. In addition to Zhao Yan's case, the report also cited the imprisonments of journalists Ching Cheong [JURIST news archive], Shi Tao, and Lu Jianhua [JURIST reports]. The New York Times has more.

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