Chinese journalist denies he leaked state secrets

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The Independent Online

A researcher for The New York Times detained in China has pleaded not guilty to charges of leaking state secrets and fraud in a case activists say underscores Beijing's continued rejection of press freedom.

A closed-door trial for Zhao Yan, 44, a Chinese researcher held by the authorities for 22 months, ended yesterday after one day with no verdict, his lawyer Mo Shaoping said.

Mr Zhao's other attorney, Guan Anping, said he could not discuss the charges his client faced, or the evidence produced in court, as the information was classified.

The lawyers sought to have Mr Zhao released on bail, but the court rejected the application.

It was not immediately clear when there would be a verdict. Mr Zhao faces a prison term of 10 years if found guilty of disclosing state secrets.

Mr Zhao, who was an investigative reporter for several Chinese publications before joining the Times as a researcher, was detained in 2004 after the newspaper reported on the Chinese leader Jiang Zemin's plans to relinquish his post as head of the military.

The government has not released details of the case.

China is believed to be the world's leading jailer of journalists, with at least 42 behind bars, many on charges of violating vague security or subversion laws.

Human rights activists said Mr Zhao's case highlights the Chinese government's use of vaguely defined state secrecy laws to muzzle the media - a tactic that sends a strong signal that China is unwilling to loosen its grip on the press.

"We've seen state secrets charges used very often on people that the government want to silence," said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch. Mr Bequelin said China's state secrecy laws were out of step with minimum international standards. AP