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Kin to press China to release NY Times researcher

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, Mar 23 (Reuters) The sister of detained New York Times researcher Zhao Yan plans to press prosecutors today to release him after the authorities dropped charges of revealing state secrets and fraud against him last week.

The Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court agreed last Friday to a decision by prosecutors to drop the charges against Zhao in a surprise concession ahead of President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States in April.

But Zhao was still in detention this morning and his sister, Zhao Kun, was on her way to the prosecutor's office to demand his freedom.

''I don't know why they haven't released him. But I want to know when they will let him go,'' the sister told Reuters.

A friend of the family who requested anonymity said the authorities were still holding Zhao apparently to reach a settlement that will prevent him from filing a lawsuit against them in the future.

Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said yesterday Chinese authorities would be breaking the law if they held Zhao past midnight (1600 GMT) yesterday when his five-day appeal period expires.

Technically, Zhao could reject the decision to drop charges against him and seek a court trial for a not-guilty verdict.

But he has decided against appealing, the lawyer said.

''It's illegal not to release him. It's wrong,'' Mo said.

Zhao was arrested in September 2004 and had faced 10 years in jail after the state security apparatus charged him with telling the New York Times details of rivalry between President Hu and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

His arrest came days after the Times reported that Jiang had offered to resign as chairman of the Central Military Commission, his last official post.

Before starting work for the Times in early 2004, Zhao established a reputation as a crusading journalist who focused on rural corruption and discontent.

The White house said on Wednesday that Hu would meet U.S.

President George W Bush in Washington on April 20 on what will be his first formal visit as president to the United States.

His previous trip to Washington was cancelled due to Hurricane Katrina, although he visited the United Nations in New York.

Beijing often times the release of dissidents to coincide with visits by top Chinese leaders to the United States, or senior US officials to China.

US President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had raised Zhao's case in meetings with Chinese officials.

Reuters DH VP0756

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