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

A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian in Liaoning province China Jan. 14 2019

China's court has sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling - a verdict likely to reignite a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Schellenberg, a Canadian drug smuggler, was sentenced to death at the Dalian Intermediate People's Court in northeast China's Liaoning Province, state-run Xinhua news agency reported on Monday night.

Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, on December 1 at the request of the United States, raising tensions between Canada and China.

Last month, a court ordered Schellenberg to be retried after he appealed a 15-year prison sentence for smuggling methamphetamines.

Courts heard an appeal of that conviction on December 29, 2018, and ordered a retrial for Monday, raising the possibility of a harsher sentence.

"Amnesty International is very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death, particularly as drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes", to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law", Nee said.

"After verifying the evidence, the court determined that the case is strong and Schellenberg is the principal culprit", the report said.

Evidence obtained by the investigators "suggests Schellenberg was involved in organized worldwide drug crime", the prosecution argued.

Earlier in the day Schellenberg told the court that he had been framed when prosecutors pushed for a harsher sentence in a case which could further exacerbate tensions between the US, Canada and China.

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Chinese authorities also arrested two Canadians, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman.

Schellenberg was to have been deported after serving his sentence.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Friday critics "can stop recklessly suspecting others of politicising legal issues just because they have done so".

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

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 had to refer to a written statement, including when Schellenberg questioned him about 180,000 yuan he was purportedly given.

Two other Chinese men have been involved in this case - one has sentenced to life imprisonment, another handed a suspended death sentence.

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.

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