Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Chinese Court Sentences Canadian to Death Over Drug Trafficking Case

China says detained Canadian Michael Kovrig doesn't have diplomatic immunity China denies detained Canadian has diplomatic immunity
Ellis Copeland | 14 January, 2019, 18:36

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, was brought in handcuffs to a hearing in the northeast city of Dalian where he could potentially face the death penalty, weeks after his appeal of a 15-year prison sentence backfired.

The extradition effort against Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is among several high-profile moves by Western nations against the mobile phone and telecommunication equipment maker amid concerns about its Chinese government ties.

Experts said retrials are rare in China, especially ones calling for a harsher sentence, but rights groups noted that courts are not independent and can be influenced by the Communist Party.

A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, told Reuters his client would probably appeal against the death sentence.

Schellenberg, who was reportedly detained in northeast Liaoning province in 2014, is accused of playing an important role in drug smuggling and of potentially being involved in global organised drug trafficking activities.

At Schellenberg's appeal hearing last month, prosecutors said that emerging evidence indicated he had played a bigger role in a drug trafficking network and so his initial sentence was too light.

While the Canadian government says it's continuing to work towards securing the release of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Hyder said he doesn't think Canadian businesspeople in China need to be fearful of being unlawfully detained or harassed by local authorities.

"I am a normal person", he said in court Monday.

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William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, expressed similar sentiments to the Hong Kong-based newspaper. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized China for "not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity" in Kovrig's arrest.

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a "key part" in an global drug trafficking syndicate. "He is an global drug smuggler and a liar", Schellenberg told the court.

Some foreign experts have said China's swift action in all three cases appeared meant to pressure Canada to free Meng and return her to China, rather than sending her to the United States.

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

Hua, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, called on Poland to allow Chinese diplomats to visit the suspect, Wang Weijing, and handle the case in accordance with the law.

"You can ask these (critics) which laws the relevant Chinese judicial organs and departments have violated by (ordering a retrial)", foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing on Friday.

China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes in the past, including a Japanese national in 2014 and a Filipino in 2013.

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