Chinese court sentences Canadian to death; Trudeau blasts move

Chinese police officers stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing

Chinese police officers stand guard outside the Canadian embassy in Beijing

Schellenberg was detained by Chinese authorities back in 2014, accused of being instrumental to drug smuggling within the country as well as having connections to worldwide drug trafficking, the South China Morning Post reported.

A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a Canadian national Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for his alleged involvement in smuggling drugs amid increasing tensions between Canada and China over the recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Schellenberg can appeal the verdict within the next 10 days.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November. But following an appeal a high court in Liaoning ruled in December that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

His case was then publicized by the Chinese press following the December 1 arrest of Huawei's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, on us charges related to doing business with Iran.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past.

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.

Before the retrial, Schellenberg's family had voiced fears that he would become a bargaining chip for Beijing to seek Meng's release, Nelson-Jones said.

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China says former Canadian diplomat Kovrig detained in China last month does not enjoy diplomatic immunity. He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator.

Schellenberg claimed the drug deal was masterminded by Khamla Wong, a Canadian who was arrested in Thailand in 2016 on drug charges.

At the retrial, prosecutors said that Schellenberg was heavily involved in a failed attempt to smuggle methamphetamines to Australia in pellets stuffed inside tires. But Xu was presented as a witness by prosecutors.

"It is obvious ... that Schellenberg's fate will have little to do with his actual guilt or innocence", Donald Clarke, a professor at George Washington University specializing in Chinese law, told the South China Morning Post. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was concerned that China had decided "arbitrarily" to apply the death sentence in the case.

"If the Chinese government has an innocent explanation for all the unusual features of this case, I hope it will provide it".

Ottawa said it was following the case "very closely" and has provided Schellenberg with consular assistance.

"I would suggest the Canadian study the Vienna Convention before making such a comment, so as not to be inaccurate and make oneself a laughing stock", Hua said, in response to a question about Trudeau's remarks.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any links to Canada´s arrest of the Huawei executive. At a news briefing Friday, a spokesman for the ministry, Lu Kang, said critics should not undermine Chinese law for political purposes.

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