Yahoo welcomes release of Chinese writer jailed for email

BEIJING (Reuters) - Yahoo! welcomed on Monday the early release from prison of a prominent Chinese writer, jailed in 2005 for leaking state secrets abroad by email after Yahoo was accused of helping authorities identify him.

Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Yahoo defended itself at the time, saying it had to abide by local laws. In 2007, Shi's family reached a private settlement with Yahoo.

"We welcome the news that Chinese journalist Shi Tao has finally been released from prison," Yahoo said in an emailed statement.

"We reiterate our belief that no one, anywhere in the world, should ever be imprisoned for peacefully exercising the universal right to free expression. We send our best thoughts and wishes to Shi Tao and to his family as they reunite."

The group PEN International, which promotes freedom of speech, said on Saturday that Shi had been released 15 months before the end of his sentence.

It was not immediately clear why he had been let out early, though such releases can be granted in China due to good behavior in jail.

Shi's prosecution was based on an email he sent to a New York-based website detailing media restrictions ahead of the 15th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)