Canadian risks harsher sentence, including death penalty, at China drug retrial

Michael Kovrig

A Chinese court issued the death penalty in the retrial of a convicted Canadian drug trafficker, a sentence that is expected to sharply escalate China's diplomatic row with Canada and the United States.

A court in Dalian in northeastern Liaoning province announced Monday evening that it had given Schellenberg the death penalty after reconsidering his case.

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 USA extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

The defendant will reportedly have 10 days to challenge the court's ruling.

The sentence comes after China detained two Canadians in December in apparent retaliation for Canada's arrest of a Chinese technology executive. But following an appeal a high court in Liaoning ruled in December that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was detained in 2014.

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

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

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Trudeau suggested that Kovrig still enjoyed diplomatic immunity, an assertion rejected by the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday.

Prosecutors told the court that they "now have evidence that highly suggests Schellenberg was involved in organised worldwide drug crime", China's central television broadcaster said in an online report.

"If the Chinese government has an innocent explanation for all the unusual features of this case, I hope it will provide it-otherwise, I don't know how to understand this case other than as a simple threat", he said.

Earlier: China court orders retrial for Canadian after prosecutors claim new evidence.

Amnesty China researcher William Nee.

China has not directly linked its arrest of the two Canadians with Meng's arrest in Canada. It said he was recruited to help smuggle more than 488 pounds of methamphetamine from a warehouse in Dalian city to Australia. They produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian.

According to Globe and Mail Beijing correspondent Nathan VanderKlippe, Schellenberg and his lawyers were frequently interrupted by a prosecutor and the chief judge at the trial as they attempted to argue that Schellenberg was nothing more than a normal tourist who had accidentally got himself caught up in a cross-border drug smuggling conspiracy because of a man who he thought was his translator.

Schellenberg's case was never publicized by Chinese media until shortly after Meng's arrest. China did not directly link the arrest to the charges against Meng, but said the men are being investigated in accordance with Chinese Law.

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