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Scholar kidnapping suspect held

(China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-07-04 09:51

Zhang Yingying's father present at court hearing for Illinois man, 28

Brendt Christensen, the 28-year-old Illinois man charged with kidnapping University of Illinois visiting scholar Zhang Yingying, appeared in federal court in Urbana on Monday.

Christiansen did not speak other than to acknowledge to the federal judge that he understood his rights during the nine-minute hearing. He was ordered held without bail until the next court hearing on Wednesday.

The Champaign News-Gazette reported that Ms. Zhang's father was among the 45 people present in the courtroom, as a large crowd gathered outside with signs reading "Justice for Yingying."

Scholar kidnapping suspect held

"The next hearing would be a detention hearing to determine whether Christiansen should remain in custody," said Sharon Paul, spokeswoman for the US attorney's office for the Central District of Illinois.

A preliminary hearing was set for July 14, but that would be waived if a grand jury returns an indictment before then, Paul said.

Christensen could face life in prison if convicted of the crime of kidnapping, according to Paul.

"There were 300 to 400 people gathered outside today," said Charlie Li, president of the Chinese American Community of Central Illinois (CACCI), who spoke with Zhang's relatives and lawyer, Zhidong Wang, outside the courthouse after the hearing.

"All of us are really concerned about Yingying and her family," Li said. "And we want justice for Yingying."

According to CNN, Christensen's defense attorney, Evan Bruno, urged the public to avoid jumping to conclusions.

"There's a long road ahead," Bruno told reporters outside the courthouse. "I encourage everyone to be patient, to keep an open mind and wait until the evidence comes in."

Christensen was arrested on Friday on a criminal complaint filed by the US attorney's office charging him with kidnapping Zhang.

Zhang, the 26-year-old visiting Chinese scholar at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has not been found and is believed by authorities to no longer be alive.

Forensic investigators searching the suspect's car noted that the seat where Zhang "would have been sitting appeared to have been cleaned to a more diligent extent" and concluded in the court papers that "this type of action may be indicative of an attempt to conceal or destroy evidence."

The FBI and the University of Illinois Police declined to comment on Monday's hearing.

Zhang Ruinan in New York contributed to this story.

China Daily

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