Chinese Journalist Freed From Prison
Saturday, September 15, 2007
BEIJING, Sept. 15 -- A jailed researcher for the New York Times was released in Beijing at about 8:15 a.m. Saturday after serving a three-year sentence for accepting money from a source, a charge he denies.
Zhao Yan, 45, wearing a short-sleeved yellow shirt, was greeted by seven or eight cars filled with supporters and family members, who have said he would continue to fight to clear his name.
"I'm very happy to finally see him out," said his older sister Zhao Kun, who brought him new clothes to wear. "We didn't say anything; we just smiled at each other."
Zhao Yan plans to attend his niece's wedding in Harbin, an event the family has looked forward to, his sister said.
The high-profile case has drawn international attention and lobbying by President Bush as well as criticism from rights activists who cite it as one of several recent examples of tighter government controls on the media. More than 30 journalists are imprisoned in China, according to research by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Zhao had faced a more serious accusation of leaking state secrets and a 10-year prison term, but that charge was dismissed in August 2006. He originally had been detained in September 2004, 10 days after a Times article accurately predicted that former president Jiang Zemin would resign as head of China's Central Military Commission.
The Times has consistently denied that Zhao was the source for that piece of news. Even though Jiang's retirement was not unexpected, Chinese authorities treated it as a state secret. Experts have speculated that Zhao's case was the result of wrestling between hard-liners and reformers within the secretive Communist Party.
The evidence in the secrets case was a single piece of paper with handwriting on it, mysteriously taken from the Times' Beijing office without a search warrant. In March 2006, just weeks before President Hu Jintao visited the United States, the secrets case seemed to have been dropped. But prosecutors later accused Zhao of accepting $2,553 from a source in 2001, before he worked for the Times, in exchange for writing favorable articles about an ongoing legal dispute.
Zhao's attorney, Guan Anping, has said his client's August 2006 trial on the fraud charge was unfair. Guan was kept waiting outside the courthouse during the proceedings. The man Zhao was accused of defrauding neither complained to police nor filed a legal complaint. Because of his detention, Zhao had served more than two years of his sentence when convicted of the fraud charges.
Researcher Jin Ling contributed to this report.