Canadian risks a heavier penalty in the re-examination of China
The Chinese government has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes
A Canadian man accused of drug smuggling in China Monday was faced with a new lawsuit after a higher court asked for a heavier sentence in a case that could further erode the ties between Beijing and Ottawa.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, originally sentenced to 15 years in prison and a forfeiture of 150,000 yuan ($ 22,000), could now face the death penalty under Chinese zero-tolerance drug laws.
His new trial in the northeastern city of Dalian stems from the indignation of the Chinese government about the arrest in Canada of a CEO of telecom giant Huawei last month.
The Chinese authorities have since retained two Canadian nationals – a former diplomat and a business advisor – on suspicion of jeopardizing national security.
Schellenberg, allegedly detained in the northeastern province of Liaoning in 2014, is accused of playing an important role in drug smuggling and possibly being involved in international organized drug trafficking activities.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November. His appeal failed when a high court in Liaoning in December ruled that the verdict was too lenient in view of the seriousness of his crimes.
– & # 39; Simple threat & # 39; –
There is little public information from the courts about the Schellenberg case, saying groups of rights, making it difficult to keep track of.
"It is clear that Chinese courts are not independent and through systematic design, courts can be influenced by Communist Party officials," William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP.
Judicial reopenings are rare, said Donald Clarke, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in Chinese law, and even rarer are new lawsuits that demand a stricter verdict.
"It is clear … that the destiny of Schellenberg has little to do with his real guilt or innocence," Clarke added.
"If the Chinese government has an innocent explanation of all the unusual features of this case, I hope it will take care of it," he added, "otherwise I do not know how to understand this matter, other than as a simple threat."
The Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that it is "following very carefully" and has provided consular assistance to Schellenberg since his arrest.
Beijing has taken the unusual step of inviting selected foreign media to observe the new process.
Beijing and Ottawa have been locked up in a diplomatic struggle since the 1 st December of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the request of the United States, where she is accused of fraud in connection with Iranian sanctions.
In what is supposed to be a retaliation for Meng's arrest, the Chinese authorities held the former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who is currently working for a foreign think-tank, and businessman Michael Spavor days later.
– Foreigners performed –
Beijing has repeatedly denied diplomatic pressure on the Schellenberg case.
"You can ask these (critics) what laws have violated the relevant Chinese courts and departments by (ordering a new trial)," said Lu Kang, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry on a regular press briefing on Friday.
"If no laws have been violated, I hope that these people can stop recklessly accusing others of politicizing legal issues just because they have done so."
China has executed other foreigners for drug-related crimes.
In 2014, a Japanese national sentenced in Dalian was put to death for drug offenses, according to diplomats and media reports in Tokyo.
A Philippine drug dealer was executed in 2013, according to the Philippine Foreign Department, and ignored Manila's request to save her life.
"Amnesty International is very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death, particularly because drug-related crimes do not meet the threshold of" most serious crimes ", for which the application of the death penalty must be limited under international law" No said.
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