China holds appeal hearing for Canadian sentenced to death, ruling delayed
|Toronto Star 09 May 2019 at 07:53|
BEIJINGâA Chinese court held an appeal hearing Thursday for a Canadian who was sentenced to death for drug smuggling in a case that has deepened a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
The intermediate-level court in northeastern Liaoning province said Robert Schellenbergâs sentence would be announced at an unspecified date.
Convicted of playing a central role in a methamphetamine smuggling operation, Schellenberg was initially sentenced to 15 years in November, only to be handed the death sentence at a hastily scheduled January retrial.
That came after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on a U.S. extradition warrant in December. Days later, two Canadians â Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor â were detained in China in apparent retaliation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Schellenbergâs sentencing in January and accused China of âarbitrarilyâ applying the death penalty.
Schellenberg, who was arrested in 2014, has maintained his innocence.
More than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine were seized as part of Schellenbergâs case, the court said. It called the 36-year-old Canadian the âprincipal offenderâ and said the evidence presented was âtrue and sufficient.â
Canadian Embassy officials were notified and Schellenbergâs litigation rights were lawfully protected during Thursdayâs proceedings, the court added.
Schellenbergâs attorney Zhang Dongshuo said it was not clear when the court would announce a decision.
âBoth sides comprehensively debated what each believes to be the issues in the case,â Zhang said, adding that at this stage he cannot assess what the final judgment will be.
The appeal hearing followed Mengâs court appearance Wednesday in Vancouver.
Meng is accused of lying to banks about the companyâs dealings with Iran in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. Her attorney, Scott Fenton, has argued that comments by U.S. President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.
Washington has pressured other countries to limit use of Huaweiâs technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft of information.