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China sentences Canadian man to death for drug smuggling

The court in the city of Dalian, China. Photo: 14 January 2019Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

The Canadian national was sentenced to death by the court in the north-eastern city of Dalian

A court in China has sentenced a Canadian to death for drug smuggling, a verdict likely to reignite a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was originally given a 15-year jail term in 2018 but after an appeal the court said the sentence was too lenient.

That ruling came shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, a top official at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, on a request from the US.

She was granted bail in December.

Ms Meng, 46, is the daughter of Huawei’s founder and her detention has angered China and soured its relations with both Canada and the US.

China has since detained two Canadian nationals, accusing them of endangering national security.

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What is Schellenberg’s case?

He was arrested in 2014 and accused of trafficking 200g of methamphetamine.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2018. But following an appeal, a high court in the north-eastern city of Dalian on Monday sentenced the Canadian national to death.

The court also ruled that all of his financial assets must be confiscated.

“I am not a drug smuggler. I came to China as a tourist,” Schellenberg said just before the verdict was announced, the AFP news agency reports.

He has 10 days to appeal.

China has denied that it is using its legal system to take hostages as bargaining chips in the Huawei case.

But for whatever reason China has suddenly begun working hard to push Schellenberg’s case to international prominence, taking the highly unusual step of inviting foreign journalists into the court, the BBC’s John Sudworth in Beijing reports.

And despite the Canadian’s insistence that he is innocent, his retrial lasted just a day, with his death sentence coming barely an hour after its conclusion, our correspondent says.

What about Meng Wanzhou?

She was arrested in Vancouver on 1 December, but was granted bail by a Canadian court several days later.

A judge in Canada’s western city ruled that she would be under surveillance 24 hours a day and must wear an electronic ankle tag.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Meng Wanzhou is the daughter of Huawei’s founder

Ms Meng is accused in the US of using a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom to evade sanctions on Iran between 2009 and 2014.

She denies any wrongdoing and says she will contest the allegations.

US President Donald Trump has said he is willing to intervene in the case.

The arrest came against the background of an increasingly acrimonious trade dispute between the US and China.

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