New York, November 3, 2006—Court officials will not grant an open hearing in an appeal filed by New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, who is jailed on fraud charges, defense lawyer Guan Anping told CPJ. Guan said that the decision defied clear regulations allowing for open proceedings in criminal cases that do not involve state secrets.
“For two years, Zhao Yan was jailed under unsustainable accusations that he leaked state secrets,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “But even after finding him innocent of these charges, authorities have not removed the cloak of secrecy from this case. The decision not to allow a hearing in the appeal is unjust.”
Zhao was tried on June 16 in closed proceedings at which he was not allowed to call defense witnesses. His lawyers have said that the decision to close the proceedings appeared related to charges that Zhao leaked state secrets. But on August 25, Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court acquitted Zhao of the state secrets charge because of “insufficient evidence.”
He was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison on a lesser fraud charge, which was not brought until more than six months after he was jailed in September 2004. The charge is related to his work as an investigative reporter for a Chinese magazine in 2001, before he joined the staff of The New York Times. He was accused of taking money in exchange for promises that he would use his influence to overturn the conviction of an official who had been sentenced to a work camp.
Zhao maintains that he is innocent, and his lawyers say they have never been given an adequate opportunity to defend him in court. The latest decision means he will have no opportunity to call witnesses. It is unclear when authorities will decide on Zhao’s appeal.