A Chinese court on Tuesday dismissed a Canadian drug convict’s appeal against a death sentence in what appeared to be an effort to step up pressure on Canada to release a detained executive from tech giant Huawei.
The Canadian government condemned the decision and called on China to grant clemency to Robert Schellenberg.
Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2018 for drug trafficking. He was brutally sentenced to death in January 2019 following the arrest of the CFO of Huawei Technologies Ltd. in Vancouver. Meng Wanzhou was arrested on December 1, 2018 on US charges relating to possible transactions with Iran.
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The Liaoning Province Superior People’s Court dismissed Schellenberg’s appeal and referred the case to the Chinese Supreme Court for review, as required by law before death sentences can be carried out.
“We condemn the verdict in the strongest terms and call on China to grant Robert clemency,” Canadian Ambassador to Beijing Dominic Barton told reporters.
“His retrial and the subsequent sentencing were arbitrary,” Barton said by telephone from northeastern Shenyang City, where he attended the appeal court hearing. “We remain deeply concerned about China’s arbitrary use of the death penalty.
Separately, a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, and a Canadian entrepreneur, Michael Spavor, were arrested in December 2018 and later charged with espionage in what was widely seen as an attempt to pressure Ottawa to release. Meng.
Barton said he would travel to the northeastern city of Dandong later on Tuesday or Wednesday to see Spavor. The ambassador said there could be a ruling in Spavor’s case on Wednesday and said he had no details on when Kovrig’s case could be decided.
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When asked if the three cases were related to Meng’s, Barton said, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is happening right now as events unfold in Vancouver.”
Diplomats from the United States, Germany, Australia, and France attended Tuesday’s hearing, according to Barton. He thanked them and other governments for expressing their support for Canada.
Two other Canadians, Fan Wei, and Xu Weihong, were also sentenced to death for drug trafficking in separate cases in 2019, as relations between Beijing and Ottawa deteriorated.
US wants Huawei executive Meng, who is the daughter of company founder, extradited to face charges she lied to Hong Kong banks in dealings with Iran that could violate trade sanctions.
A Canadian judge will hear final arguments in the coming weeks on whether Meng should be extradited. She lives under house arrest in Vancouver.
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Schellenberg was convicted of smuggling 222 kilograms (448 pounds) of methamphetamine, according to the court.
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