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China Revives Case Against Detained NYT Researcher

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BEIJING - China has revived the case of a detained New York Times researcher which was dropped in March, raising hopes at the time of his imminent release, his lawyer said on Monday.

The news comes as an activist who set up an environmental group after studying village efforts to fight pollution went on trial on Monday charged with illegally obtaining state secrets.

Researcher Zhao Yan, held since September 2004, had faced a 10-year jail term after the state security apparatus charged him with leaking state secrets for telling the New York Times details of rivalry between Hu Jintao and his predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

But China dropped the charge along with a lesser fraud charge in March in a move seen as a surprise concession timed before President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington in April.

But that was not to be.

"The prosecutors notified me last Friday that they had re-transferred the case to the Beijing Second Intermediate Court one or two days earlier," Zhao's layer, Mo Shaoping, told Reuters by telephone.

Mo said he did not know what charges were on the new indictment bill or whether a date had been set for trial.

He said the prosecutors had used a term of "resuming criminal investigation and prosecution" to describe the move but it had no legal basis under Chinese criminal procedure.

"Even they admitted they could not find an article of law to cite for the re-transfer of the case," Mo said.

Zhao had been expected to be released within days after the Intermediate court agreed to a request by the prosecution to withdraw the case on March 17, but he remains in custody.

"It is definitely a prolonged and illegal detention now," Mo said.

China broadly defines as a state secret anything that affects the security and interests of the state and it is suspicious of any independent organisation dealing with sensitive issues.

Rights groups say the laws are arbitrary enough to be manipulated for political purposes.

The activist who set up the unofficial environmental group Green Watch in southern Zhejiang province after studying village efforts to fight pollution went on trial on Monday charged with illegally obtaining state secrets.

Tan Kai was detained in October and formally arrested in December after the group opened a bank account under Tan's name, the U.S.-based Human Rights (HRIC) In China said.

Tan and five others set up Green Watch after monitoring the violent struggle of villagers in the nearby city of Dongyang to shut down waste-spewing chemical plants blamed for crop failures and birth defects.

The charges stemed from Tan's employment as a computer repair technician, when he routinely made backup copies of a client's computer files, which the authorities claimed constituted "state secrets", his lawyer, Li Heping, told Reuters.

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