Time for transparency in Ai case, German chancellor says

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that China's release of dissident artist Ai Weiwei on bail must be just a first step, calling for the charges against him to be clearly explained.

Ai, who was arrested on April 3, was released from prison Wednesday due to his "good behaviour", his willingness to admit to crimes related to tax evasion and to repay the money owed, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.

After helping design the centrepiece stadium of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ai had relentlessly criticised China's ruling Communist Party.

He an angered Beijing's political elite with his involvement in a number of sensitive activist campaigns.

Ai's release "can only be a first step," Merkel said in a statement released by her office.

"Now, the accusations that have been made against (him) must be explained in a transparent manner and in conformity with the rule of law," the statement further said.

Ai's detention was part of a major government crackdown on dissent following online calls for demonstrations in China to emulate the protests that have rocked the Arab world.

© 2011 AFP

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