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Trial begins of Rio Tinto staff on bribery, spying charges

The trial of four employees from the Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto who Chinese authorities have charged with bribery and industrial espionage began in Shanghai on Monday, court sources said.

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AFP - Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Monday told China the world will be watching "very closely" as the trial of four Rio Tinto mining employees got under way.

Australian national Stern Hu and three Chinese colleagues are being tried on bribery and trade secrets charges, in a case that has strained diplomatic ties and raised questions about the rule of law in the emerging powerhouse.

"The Australian government will be monitoring the trial very carefully," Rudd told reporters on Monday.

"China has a different legal system to Australia, China has a different legal system to the rest of the world."

"The world will be watching very closely," he added, repeating comments he made last week.

Canberra has called for transparency in the three-day trial, which will hear bribery and trade secrets charges. However, Beijing has insisted parts dealing with industrial espionage will be closed, adding to questions over whether the men will get a fair hearing in the politically charged case.

The four defendants were arrested last July during contentious iron ore contract negotiations which later collapsed, and after Rio snubbed a near 20-billion-dollar cash injection from state-run Chinese mining firm Chinalco.

The trial is being widely seen as a test of whether China is willing to honour commitments to foreign investors and be a responsible member of the world community.

Australia has said consular officials will attend trial sessions on the bribe-taking charges and it had asked China to reconsider the closure of the trade secrets hearings.

Beijing has insisted the case will be handled by the book and it will "fully guarantee" the rights of the defendants, who include Chinese nationals Wang Yong, Ge Minqiang and Liu Caikui.

 

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