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China rejects Canadian man's appeal against death sentence

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Canadian national, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, attends a court hearing in Dalian, China, in 2019. (File photo)

A Chinese court has upheld the death sentence against a Canadian man, convicted of drug trafficking, triggering a strong rebuke from Ottawa.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was arrested for drug smuggling in 2014, was initially sentenced to 15 years in late 2018. But a court in the city of Dalian ordered his execution in January 2019, saying the jail sentence was too lenient.

Schellenberg appealed a retrial, but a court rejected the appeal against the death sentence on Tuesday, saying the facts presented in the earlier trial were clear and the evidence “reliable and sufficient.”

“The facts found in the first trial were clear, the evidence was reliable and sufficient, the conviction was accurate, the sentence was appropriate, and the trial procedures were legal," said the Liaoning Province Higher People's court in a statement.

Prosecutors have said Schellenberg was a key member of an international drug trafficking syndicate which in 2014 had planned to ship more than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine to Australia.

Schellenebrg denied the accusations, saying he was in China as a tourist.

Canadian ambassador to China Dominic Barton reacted to the ruling, saying that Ottawa condemns “the verdict in the strongest possible terms and calls on China to grant Robert clemency.”

“We've expressed our strong opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment to China repeatedly and we will continue to do so," Barton added.

He said a ruling was also expected Wednesday in the case of another Canadian national, Michael Spavor, who was detained along with another Canadian, Michael Kovrig on charges of espionage in 2018.

Ottawa accused China of arresting them in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the charges against the two Michaels were “trumped-up” and that Chinese officials were “very clear” the cases were connected.

Beijing denies its prosecution of the three Canadians are related to Meng’s arrest.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver airport on a US warrant in late 2018 over allegations she committed fraud.

Her formal extradition hearing will begin in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Meg’s lawyers have argued that the case against her is unfounded and that her constitutional rights were breached when she was arrested.

Meng’s detention sharply increased tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.

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