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Wen Ho Lee to Stay in Jail Pending Government Appeal

Aired August 29, 2000 - 1:32 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A federal judge in New Mexico says the nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee should be out of jail and home with his wife by Friday, but federal prosecutors have other ideas.

Decision made just within the past hour, and CNN's Martin Savidge is closely following the story in Albuquerque. He joins us now.

Martin, what's happening?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Lou, there had been some hopes on the part of family members of supporters of Wen Ho Lee that he might be released on bail today. That is not going to be the case. The bail hearing that took place this morning lasted for a little over an hour and a half. Essentially, attorneys were wrangling out the details of how Mr. Lee would live his life once he was returned to his home awaiting trial.

Then, suddenly, attorneys for the U.S. government requested a stay of Judge James Parker on the bail hearing proceedings. The judge granted that stay. Essentially, it appears that the U.S. government attorney are planning or at least looking into the possibility of launching some sort of appeal. It was last Thursday when the same judge granted that Mr. Lee would be eligible for bail of $1 million. He would be eligible to be free from jail.

The U.S. government has never been happy with that prospect. They have feared about the consequences for national security if he were set free, and now it appears they are laying the groundwork to possibly stall that effort. The judge has given them essentially until noon on Friday to launch that appeal. If they do not, then it's very likely that Mr. Lee could be set free.

This is Mark Holscher. He's a defense attorney for Mr. Lee. Here's his reaction after the hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HOLSCHER, LEE'S ATTORNEY: We're pleased that Dr. Lee will be released on Friday. We must note, however, that if Judge Parker had been provided a complete record in December, we believe that Dr. Lee would not have spent the last eight months in solitary confinement, enshackled. We look forward to him rejoining his family this Friday, and we thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: To give you a little bit of background on this particular case and why the U.S. government is so sensitive about the issue of his release, Mr. Lee is accused of allegedly illegally downloading some very sensitive materials. Some call it the crown jewels of the U.S. nuclear weapons program when he was a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Much of that data has never been found, never been retrieved, and the U.S. government has always been concerned that if Mr. Lee was set free on bail, he might somehow gain access to that material and pass it along to another source. That's the reason they've been opposed to bail, and that appears to be the reason why they are once more possibly planning to battle against it -- Lou.

WATERS: Martin Savidge in Albuquerque.

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