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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 19:21 GMT
China to try NY Times researcher
New York Times researcher Zhao Yan (photo courtesy New York Times)
Zhao Yan has been held for 15 months (picture: New York Times)
China is to prosecute a New York Times researcher on charges of leaking state secrets and fraud, his lawyer has said.

Zhao Yan, who has been held by Chinese authorities since September 2004, could face trial within six weeks in Beijing.

He is thought to have been detained in connection with a New York Times report about plans by ex-President Jiang Zemin to retire from his top military post.

Mr Zhao denies all the charges against him. The New York Times newspaper also denies he has disclosed state secrets.

At the time, Mr Jiang's intention would have been a closely guarded secret and any leak regarded as a serious offence.

The authorities in Beijing have not disclosed any details about the offence allegedly committed by Mr Zhao, who worked from the New York Times' Beijing bureau.

If convicted on a charge of "providing state secrets abroad", he could face a minimum term of 10 years in jail.

Poor health

Mr Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, told the AFP news agency he had recently visited his client in prison and his health was "not too good".

A new charge of fraud was filed against him in June.

Ching Cheong (courtesy: The Straits Times)
If convicted, journalist Ching Cheong faces the death penalty

Before joining the New York Times Mr Zhao, a Chinese citizen, worked for the magazine China Reform, where he wrote reports criticising abuse of poor farmers by officials.

A number of other journalists have been arrested in China under its national secrecy law.

Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based correspondent for Singapore's Straits Times, was accused in August of spying for China's rival, Taiwan. If convicted, he could face the death penalty

Chinese reporter Shi Tao, who worked for the Contemporary Business News in Hunan province, was sentenced in April to 10 years in prison for sending foreign-based websites the text of an internal Communist Party memo.

He is believed to have been jailed as a result of information Western internet firm Yahoo supplied to the Chinese government.

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