China sentences Canadian man to death for drug smuggling


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A Canadian national has been sentenced Monday to execution in China, after being retried on global drug trafficking charges.

He can appeal against the sentence in an upper court.

According to George Washington University professor Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law, "several unusual features of the Schellenberg case suggest that it may be connected to China's efforts to get Meng Wanzhou. released before she is extradited to the United States to face charges of bank fraud related to Iran sanctions".

The move was widely seen as retaliation for Canada's arrest of a top Chinese executive from telecom giant Huawei.

After his arrest, Schellenberg was held for 15 months before his first trial, and it took an additional 32 months before a court declared him guilty and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for his role in a failed attempt to smuggle drugs from China to Australia. But at his hearing in late December, prosecutors argued that his initial sentence was too lenient.

"I am not a drug smuggler".

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.

The Dalian court said Schellenberg, who was detained in December 2014, played a "key part" in an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.

"As long as the foreign citizens in China abide by Chinese laws and regulations, they are welcomed and their safety and freedom are guaranteed", Hua said.

"This syndicate. does not just spread drugs in one country, the problem has spread across is a harm to human health and also to the stability of countries", the court said.

On Friday, Donald Clarke, a specialist in Chinese law at George Washington University, said in a blog post that Schellenberg's case had several unusual features, including the delay in trial and sentencing, the rare decision for and extraordinary speed in scheduling a retrial, and invitations to worldwide media to observe the case.

"Many of the things that businesses do on both sides of the trade equation are about helping that middle class that every political party in the world wants to try and find a way to help", he added.

Ottawa said it was following the case "very closely" and has provided Schellenberg with consular assistance.

Beijing has repeatedly denied any links to Canada´s arrest of the Huawei executive. It says the two men are being investigated in accordance with Chinese law.

Earlier on Monday, China's government dismissed Trudeau's statement that Kovrig enjoyed some form of diplomatic immunity.

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.