Espionage trial for second Canadian arrested in China closed, no verdict

Canadian diplomat Jim Nickel (L) told reporters in Beijing that the trial of the second Canadian arrested on espionage charges in China has begun

Canada’s prime minister vowed to keep up pressure on China to release two Canadians after the trial of Michael Kovrig, one of the two arrested in China on espionage charges, ended without a verdict on Monday.

The former diplomat’s hearing took place days after the closed-door trial of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor. Both have been jailed for more than two years in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest under a US extradition warrant against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

“We will continue to make it very, very clear that their arbitrary detention is unacceptable. We will continue to call for their release,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a news conference.

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“There is no connection between these two events,” Trudeau told reporters.

“The eyes of the world are on these cases and proceedings,” he said.

On Monday, police cordoned off an area in front of the Beijing courthouse as Canadian diplomats were refused entry and turned away.

The trial lasted a day before the court issued a statement saying the case was closed and it “will choose a date for the delivery of the verdict in accordance with the law.”

Representatives from 26 countries — including Australia, Britain, France, Germany and the United States — gathered in front of the building, Nickel said, and “borrowed their votes” for Kovrig’s immediate release.

Both Trudeau and Garneau thanked the diplomats for showing their solidarity and “reiterating the message of Canada that these detentions are unacceptable”.

Canadian diplomats were also banned from attending Spavor’s trial in the Chinese city of Dandong on Friday, which lasted less than three hours and ended without a verdict.

China’s foreign ministry defended the order barring diplomats from entering the court, slamming those gathering outside as “very unreasonable”.

– “A Political Case” –

Meng, whose father is Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, has fought extradition to the United States for violating US sanctions on Iran and other laws.

“China doesn’t even try to make this look like a real trial because evidence isn’t shared with the defense and the judge doesn’t even take the time to review it,” he said before the hearing.

China’s judicial system convicts most of those on trial, and the two Canadians face life imprisonment if found guilty of espionage and leaking state secrets.

Beijing has insisted the detention of the two men was lawful, while calling Meng’s case “a purely political incident”.


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