Verdict in Chinese New York Times Researcher Fraud Case Delayed

The verdict in the case of a Chinese researcher for The New York Times charged with fraud and leaking state secrets has been delayed and the court has not given a reason, his lawyer said Friday.

The closed door trial for Zhao Yan, 44, at the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ended a week ago, with Zhao pleading not guilty.

"The court says the decision will be delayed for one month. They said the latest they will give an answer is July 25," Zhao's attorney Guan Anping said in a telephone interview. "They did not give a reason."

Zhao faces a prison term of 10 years if convicted of disclosing state secrets.

A decision had been expected within a week, but Guan said a delay was normal in a case "where there is a great discrepancy between prosecutors and defense lawyers."

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Guan has said he cannot discuss the charges or the evidence produced in court because the information was classified.

"This case has a lot of impact and the court is under pressure because the verdict will have an influence on the public trust of Chinese law," Guan said. "It is correct for the court to be prudent."

A man who answered the telephone at the Beijing court said he knew nothing about Zhao's case and hung up.

Zhao was detained in 2004 after the Times reported on former Chinese President Jiang Zemin's plans to relinquish his post as head of the military.

The government has not released details about the case, which activists say underscores Beijing's continued rejection of press freedom and lack of transparency.

China is believed to be the world's leading jailer of journalists, with at least 42 in detention, many on charges of violating vague security or subversion laws.

Zhao Yan's sister, Zhao Kun, said the delay was a good indication that her brother was innocent.

"Zhao Yan has not done anything wrong. Otherwise, they would not have to take more time to examine the evidence," she said. "They have no reason, they have no proof."

Zhao's case had been dismissed in March in an apparent attempt to smooth China-U.S. relations ahead of President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington. But Zhao wasn't released, and prosecutors announced a new investigation within days.

Guan said he saw Zhao "a few days ago" and the journalist appeared to be doing well.