China says detained Canadian lacks diplomatic immunity

Pauline Gross
January 14, 2019

A Canadian national has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling by a court in Liaoning province following a retrial which has been viewed by worldwide observers as hasty, suspiciously-timed, and possibly political.

The court found that Robert Lloyd Schellenberg's initial sentence of 15 years was too lenient, while the accused maintains he was framed from the get-go.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's chief financial officer (CFO), is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters Dec 6, 2018.

The defendant will reportedly have 10 days to challenge the court's ruling.

Two other Chinese men have been involved in this case - one has sentenced to life imprisonment, another handed a suspended death sentence.

The high court hearing came after Canada's arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of authorities in the U.S. on December 1st.

He was originally detained in China in 2014, with a trial that began in 2016.

In an unusual move, China's propaganda office invited foreign reporters to attend both Schellenberg's hearing and retrial.

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As well imposing the death sentence on Schellenberg, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians last month: Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat; and Michael Spavor, a businessman.

"China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time", Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch's China director, told Reuters. In a statement, the court alleged he was involved in organized worldwide drug crimes.

Trudeau suggested that Kovrig still enjoyed diplomatic immunity, an assertion rejected by the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday.

Since then, China has arrested two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Meng's arrest.

According to the court, Schellenberg was recruited to help smuggle 222 kilograms of methamphetamine from a Chinese warehouse to Australia.

Court retrials are rare in China and retrials calling for a harsher sentence are even rarer, said Donald Clarke, a George Washington University professor specialising in Chinese law.

She said she was trying to contact his immediate family to find out if they knew about the court judgment. They produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian. "He is an worldwide drug smuggler and a liar", Schellenberg told the court.

In what is believed to be a retaliation to Meng's arrest, Chinese authorities detained former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who now works for a foreign think tank, and businessman Michael Spavor days later. At a news briefing Friday, a spokesman for the ministry, Lu Kang, said critics should not undermine Chinese law for political purposes. British resident Akmal Shaikh was executed in 2009 for smuggling heroin.

Other reports by GizPress

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