Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Chinese Court Sentences Canadian to Death Over Drug Trafficking Case

Chinese police officers stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing Chinese police officers stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing
Patty Aguilar | 14 January, 2019, 17:58

A Canadian man accused of drug smuggling in China appeared at a new trial Monday (Jan 14) after an upper court called for a harsher sentence in a case that could further strain ties between Beijing and Ottawa.

Chinese officials have suggested that Schellenberg's case is not related to the arrests of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor last month or the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Schellenberg was first tried for drug smuggling in the Dalian court in March 2016 but it was not until more than two years later that the court handed down a verdict, convicting and jailing him for 15 years in November 2018, the Post report said. While reviewing the appeal, Liaoning province's high court argued that the Canadian had been part of an global drug smuggling operation and ruled that the initial punishment was too lenient, considering the crimes that he had committed. Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the Vancouver airport on December 1 at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face fraud charges.

Canadian diplomats were present for Schellenberg's retrial, the court said.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said the human rights group is "very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death".

But prosecutors said they had evidence that "highly suggests Schellenberg was involved in organised worldwide drug crime", it reported quoting Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN.

On Friday, Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law at George Washington University, said in a blog post that Schellenberg's case had several unusual features, including the delay in trial and sentencing, the rare decision for and extraordinary speed in scheduling a retrial, and invitations to global media to observe the case.

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In an opening statement, Schellenberg said he had come to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any diplomatic pressure behind Schellenberg's case.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Friday critics "can stop recklessly suspecting others of politicising legal issues just because they have done so". He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator.

The Dalian court was filled with about 70 observers, who were patted down and made to empty pockets - receipts and stray coins were to be left at the security check.

Schellenberg has 10 days to appeal his sentence, the court said in a statement, which his lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told Reuters will most likely happen.

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

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