The mainland authorities have dropped charges against New York Times researcher Zhao Yan in the run-up to President Hu Jintao's visit to the US next month. Zhao's lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said he expected Zhao would be released by Monday. Zhao, 42, was detained in September 2004, just days after the newspaper broke the story of former president Jiang Zemin's plan to resign from the Central Military Commission. He was formally arrested a month later on charges of divulging state secrets and financial fraud. The prosecutors dropped the fraud charge because 'there was some evidence that needed further investigation', a court ruling said, without explaining why the state secret charge was also dropped. Times executive editor Bill Keller said the paper was still awaiting formal word on Zhao's release, but called it thrilling news. 'The notion that Zhao's work for the Times constituted anything but dogged journalism has seemed to us ridiculous from the outset,' he said. 'We don't know yet exactly how this decision came about, but if it represents a legal system working the way it is supposed to, that is happy news far beyond the family of The New York Times.'