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China postpones trial date for NY Times researcher

Written by: Staff
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BEIJING, June 7 (Reuters) China has delayed the expected trial date for a New York Times researcher accused of leaking state secrets, his lawyer said today, adding it was still unclear when the case would be heard.

The preliminary trial date for Zhao Yan, who has been in custody since September 2004, had been informally set for Thursday but the deadline for a formal written notice of the hearing passed with no notification.

''It is certain now that the trial will not be opened tomorrow, but I don't know how long it will be delayed. The court did not give me a reason for that either,'' Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told Reuters.

''He (the judge) asked the defence to submit a request for the delay, but I refused,'' Mo said.

China dropped the charges against Zhao in March, weeks before President Hu Jintao visited the United States, raising hopes at the time for his imminent release.

But the case was revived in mid-May when prosecutors notified Mo it had been transferred to the Beijing Second Intermediate Court.

By Chinese law, a trial should open and the court reach a verdict within 45 days after it accepts a case from the prosecution, but in practice that period can be delayed, Mo said.

Mo said he had seen Zhao since the prosecution revived the case last month and that he appeared in good health.

The state security apparatus has accused Zhao of telling the New York Times details of the rivalry between Hu and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and he faces a maximum 10-year jail term if convicted.

REUTERS SHB BD1552

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