A Chinese court heard on Friday the case of New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, accused of fraud and leaking state secrets, but his lawyer said there was no immediate verdict in the case critics say is unlawful.
Lawyers for Zhao, 44, said he pleaded not guilty, but expressed little hope he would be cleared of the charges for which he faces more than 10 years in prison.
“Because these kinds of cases are very special, the court seldom accepts the opinions of the defense,” said Guan Anping, one of his two lawyers.
The verdict is expected to be handed down within the month, he said.
Zhao testified in his own defense. Joseph Kahn, the New York Times’ Beijing bureau chief, was not allowed to take the stand despite requests.
“Zhao appeared very calm and stable and seemed better than I expected,” Guan said of his testimony.
His family, who have not seen him since he was detained in September 2004, were also barred from the hearing and Guan said they, along with Kahn, waited all day outside the courtroom.
The trial comes after Zhao has spent nearly two years in detention and follows a start-stop process of charges being laid, dropped and then revived again, highlighting the vagaries of China’s justice system.
China’s state security apparatus has accused Zhao of telling the New York Times details of rivalry between Hu and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.
China dropped the charges against Zhao in March, weeks before President Hu Jintao visited the United States, raising hopes for his release.
But he remained in detention and the case was revived last month, when prosecutors informed Zhao’s other lawyer, Mo Shaoping, that it had been transferred to the Beijing Second Intermediate Court.
Zhao himself wrote to the Second Intermediate Court to protest against his case being heard there, arguing that by Chinese law it should be heard by the Supreme Court, Guan said.
Watchdog group Human Rights in China said Zhao was being detained arbitrarily for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
“His case is also a violation of Chinese law,” the New York-based organization said.
On Thursday, China sentenced another journalist, Yang Xiaoqing, to one year in prison on charges of extortion, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
Yang’s reporting had exposed alleged graft among local officials in the central province of Hunan.
“In the absence of an independent judiciary, the odds are stacked against journalists,” Committee to Protect Journalists executive director Ann Cooper said in a statement.