Canadian Robert Schellenberg Sentenced To Death In China In Drug-Smuggling Case

Canadian Robert Schellenberg Sentenced To Death In China In Drug-Smuggling Case

A Canadian man originally given 15 years in prison for drug smuggling was sentenced to death in China on Monday after a one-day retrial, the surprising verdict coming amid growing tensions between Beijing and Ottowa after the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive last month.

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

"This is a case about Xu Qing, he is an global drug smuggler and a liar", Schellenberg told the court.

Schellenberg's lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told Reuters he will likely appeal the sentence.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government would intercede on behalf of Schellenberg, as it is required to do anytime a Canadian faces the death penalty overseas.

Kovrig was one of two Canadians detained in China days after the December 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co, in Vancouver, at the request of the United States.

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 global drug trafficking, the South China Morning Post reported. But following an appeal a high court in Liaoning ruled in December that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

China says former Canadian diplomat Kovrig detained in China last month does not enjoy diplomatic immunity.

It arrested both Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman, on suspicion of endangering national security.

"China is going to face lots of questions about why this particular person, of this particular nationality, had to be retried at this particular time", Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch's China director, told Reuters.

Trudeau's statement suggested Kovrig carried a diplomatic passport while on his sabbatical - which is possible if authorised by Canada's foreign ministry - but Hua said he was in China on an ordinary travel document with a business visa.

William Nee, a Hong Kong-based China researcher with Amnesty International, said it was horrified that Schellenberg had been sentenced to death, particularly as drug-related offences did not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" to which the death penalty must be restricted under international law.

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

China has not directly linked its arrest of the two Canadians with Meng's arrest in Canada.

Chinese prosecutors say that Schellenberg was part of an worldwide syndicate which planned to send some 222kg of methamphetamine to Australia, hidden within plastic pellets concealed in rubber tyres. They produced a witness, Xu Qing, to testify against the Canadian.

Schellenberg was again found guilty of taking part in an global drug-smuggling ring, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Schellenberg's case was never publicized by Chinese media until shortly after Meng's arrest.

"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.

In 2009, China executed a Briton, Akmal Shaikh, on charges of smuggling heroin despite his supporters' protest that he was mentally ill.