Published: Mon, January 14, 2019

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

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

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.

The court in northeastern China announced the death penalty against the Canadian, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, after a retrial that lasted one day, and gave no indication that his sentence might be reduced to a prison sentence.

The sentence comes after China detained two Canadians in December in apparent retaliation for Canada's arrest of a Chinese technology executive.

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.

Prosecutors told the court that they "now have evidence that highly suggests Schellenberg was involved in organised global drug crime", China's central television broadcaster said in an online report. "It's clear that Chinese courts are not independent, and by systematic design, courts can be influenced by Communist Party officials", he said.

William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, said the human rights group is "very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death".

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

In a statement, the court alleged he was involved in organized worldwide drug crimes.

But against a backdrop of sharply increased tensions between China and Canada, the court sided with prosecutors who called for a stiffer sentence at a new trial.

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

Schellenberg's family said they anxious China would use him as a bargaining chip following Meng's arrest.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any links to Canada´s arrest of the Huawei executive.

There has been little public information from the courts about Schellenberg's case, rights groups say, making it hard to keep track of it.

Lu Kang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

He said a friend recommended him 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.

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

Prosecutors brought in Xu as a witness, who in nearly two hours of testimony never once turned to look at Schellenberg.

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

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