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Emergency hearing called in Wen Ho Lee case
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico (CNN) -- An emergency hearing was called Friday a half hour before the scheduled release of nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee on bail.
The hearing will be held at 11:30 a.m in U.S. District Judge James Parker's courtroom in Albuquerque. Lee is scheduled to be released at noon. Government prosecutors have until noon to file an appeal seeking to block Lee's release.
Lee was fired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and has been held in solitary confinement since December 10, 1999, at a detention center outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The 60-year-old Taiwan native, a naturalized U.S. citizen, faces 59 counts of downloading volumes of nuclear weapons design and testing simulation data from secure computers to a non-secure computer and tapes. Some of those tapes are missing. He is the only Los Alamos employee to be charged.
If convicted on all counts, Lee could be sentenced to life in prison.
Government's charges and allegations of racial profiling
The government says Lee compromised national security; Lee was arrested at a time when Congress expressed fear of the Chinese spies in U.S. nuclear labs.
In court documents filed in July, the Justice Department listed eight nations to which Lee wrote, apparently seeking employment: Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan and China.
The letters were sent in 1993, when Lee had begun to download nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos computers, according to papers filed at the U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.
The government also has said Lee was involved in the design and simulation of nuclear weapons at a Chinese Institute.
But Lee's supporters note that Lee has never been charged with espionage, proving that he is being prosecuted because of his race.
In affidavits unsealed Thursday, two former government counterintelligence chiefs said they believe Lee was targeted because he is an Asian American. The same day, leaders of three prestigious scientific organizations expressed their objections to the government's treatment of Lee.
About 30 FBI agents and support personnel searched for more than12 hours Thursday at Lee's home in the Los Alamos suburb of White Rock, looking for any sensitive scientific materials. The search was in advance of Lee's imminent release.
Conditions of Lee's bail release
U.S. District Judge James Parker twice denied bail before changing his mind last week, when he ordered Lee released on $1 million bail and scheduled a hearing Tuesday to discuss the conditions of the release.
The reversal came after a senior FBI agent admitted he had previously given inaccurate or misleading testimony about Lee's alleged deceptions.
Under Parker's proposal, Lee would remain under house arrest until November 6, the scheduled date for trial. He would have to wear an electronic monitor and call federal authorities twice a day. He would be able to leave his home only for trips to the federal courthouse or the Los Alamos Lab with his attorney. His phone calls and mail would be monitored.
Lee was not released Tuesday because the government requested a stay of Parker's order, seeking more time to decide whether to appeal. Parker granted the stay, or a temporary postponement of a court order, giving the government until Friday to appeal to the 10 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which has jurisdiction over New Mexico.
University of New Mexico law professor Leo Romero urged people not to read too much into the judge's decision because Parker was only making a decision on bail.
"The judge is not making any kind of determinations with respect to the merits, which are whether Mr. Lee is guilty, whether prosecution can prove that beyond a reasonable doubt," Romero said.
FBI begins search of Wen Ho Lee's home
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