Chinese Court Sentences Canadian to Death Over Drug Trafficking Case

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A court in northeast China's Liaoning Province has sentenced Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for alleged drug smuggling, as tensions persist between Beijing and Ottawa over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou last month in Vancouver.

China's strict drug laws apply a sentence of "15 years, life imprisonment or death" as well as property confiscation for drug trafficking in amounts over a kilogram.

The two countries have been at odds since the arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December on suspicion of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

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. But last month an appeals court agreed with prosecutors who said the sentence was too lenient.

The sentence comes against the backdrop of the Chinese government´s anger over the arrest in Canada of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei last month on a United States extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

"The court will later announce more detailed information on the trial", Xinhua said.

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

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That was followed by China's detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor on suspicion of endangering national security.

"China has moved from merely detaining Canadians as hostages to actually threatening - subtly, to be sure - to kill a Canadian who would otherwise not have been executed if it does not get what it wants", Donald Clarke said. "He is an worldwide drug smuggler and a liar", Schellenberg told the court.

He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.

"It's clear that Chinese courts are not independent, and by systematic design, courts can be influenced by Communist Party officials", William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP.

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

When pressed on details, he frequently said he could not remember and to refer to a written statement for details, including when Schellenberg questioned him about 180,000 yuan he was purportedly given.

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

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