Chinese cyber-dissident Liu Di released ahead of premier�s U.S. trip

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The Chinese cyber-dissident Liu Di, known online as Stainless Steel Mouse, has been released after serving a year in prison on condition that she avoid contact with foreign news media, RFA�s Mandarin and Cantonese services report.

Liu was arrested in November 2002 after she posted several articles on Chinese Internet sites satirizing the government and the Communist Party�s failure to protect freedom of expression, as the Chinese Constitution guarantees.

Police accused her of subversion at the time of her arrest, but no formal charges have been brought by the state prosecuting body, the People�s Procuratorate. Her release comes just days ahead of a state visit to the United States by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. China frequently frees dissidents ahead of such visits.

�She is out on bail and awaiting trial�these are the conditions of her release, so it is best that she doesn�t speak with foreign reporters,� Agence France-Presse quoted Liu�s grandmother as saying.

According to Liu Di�s lawyer, Yan Ruyu, the Beijing prosecutor�s office has 12 months to bring formal charges, but a decision on whether to do so could come earlier.

Yan Ruyu, Liu Di�s attorney, told RFA's Mandarin service that "it�s inaccurate to say the court will reach a verdict within 12 months, because the case is still in the Procuratorate, which has not yet brought it to court."

"The Procuratorate has returned the case to the Public Security Bureau for further investigation on grounds of lack of evidence," Yan said.

The maximum time a defendant can spend "out on bail awaiting trial" is 12 months, Yan said, so the decision to pursue or drop a prosecution must be made within that time frame.

The 23-year-old former psychology major at Beijing Normal University was freed from Beijing�s Qincheng prison Nov. 28 after her case came to the attention of President Hu Jintao, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. It said Liu�s chief desire was to continue her studies at the university, but her reinstatement as a student there was uncertain.

Also released in recent days were Li Yibin, 29, who ran a Web site called Democracy and Liberty and Wu Yiran, 34, a graduate of Shanghai�s Jiaotong University, the Center said.

Liu�s arrest caused an outcry on Chinese Internet chatrooms, which have called for her release. Many surfers are using the �Stainless Steel� part of her Internet �handle� and in a sign of solidarity.

China�s increasingly aggressive Internet police force has generated a surge of Internet dissent cases in recent months. Around 20 people are known to be imprisoned or awaiting trial for posting political views critical of the government.

On Friday, Internet activist Jiang Lijun was jailed for four years after being convicted of subverting state power by planning to set up a pro-democracy party. Jiang allegedly tried to organize online activities calling for the release of Liu, as had many of the other Internet activists currently in custody.

In what rights groups say is a worrying development in the control of online information in China, the government is also pressing ahead with plans to set up a countrywide monitoring and control system through a system of strictly controlled Internet cafe chains.#####


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