Detained Canadian does not have diplomatic immunity, says China

China says detained Canadian Michael Kovrig doesn't have diplomatic immunity

A Canadian national has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling by a court in Liaoning province following a retrial which has been viewed by global observers as hasty, suspiciously-timed, and possibly political.

The court in northeastern Liaoning province announced that it had given Robert Lloyd Schellenberg the death penalty after rejecting his plea of innocence and convicting him of being an accessory to drug smuggling.

The sentence comes against the backdrop of the Chinese government´s anger over the arrest in Canada of a top executive from telecom giant Huawei last month on a United States extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said his client now has 10 days to appeal.

An expert on the Chinese legal system told the National Post that it appears China had raised Schellenberg's case to pressure Canada to release previously detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Prosecutors appealed that verdict last month, arguing that the sentence was too lenient.

The court said Schellenberg had conspired with others in an attempt to smuggle 222 kg (489.43 lb) of methamphetamine from China to Australia in late 2014. Drug smuggling is an offence punishable by death in China.

Chinese authorities arrested former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor last month, accusing them both of endangering national security. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticized China for "not respecting the principles of diplomatic immunity" in Kovrig's arrest.

"That would harm Canadians, but it would also harm Chinese", he said.

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William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, expressed similar sentiments to the Hong Kong-based newspaper.

The court on Monday said Schellenberg had an "extremely large" negative impact on China and was a "core member" of an worldwide drug ring.

Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, told The West Block's Mercedes Stephenson that he recently met with ambassador John McCallum and that the pair discussed various matters related to Canada's relationship with China.

But Chinese prosecutors said Schellenberg was the principal suspect in a case involving an global syndicate that planned to send some 222 kilogrammes (490 pounds) of methamphetamine to Australia.

"This is a case about Xu Qing. He is an worldwide drug smuggler and a liar", The Post quoted Schellenberg telling the court.

Schellenberg's case was never publicized by Chinese media until shortly after Meng's arrest. It says the two men are being investigated in accordance with Chinese law.

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

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