Chinese court sentences Canadian drug suspect to death

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A Chinese court issued the death penalty in the retrial of a convicted Canadian drug trafficker, a sentence that is expected to sharply escalate China's diplomatic row with Canada and the United States.

Experts say the retrial and subsequent death sentence are unusual given the charges, and could be in retaliation for Canada's arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou just weeks before.

Schellenberg was detained by Chinese authorities back in 2014, accused of being instrumental to drug smuggling within the country as well as having connections to global drug trafficking, the South China Morning Post reported.

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 U.S. extradition request related to Iran sanctions violations.

Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was detained in 2014.

Beijing considers drug-related offences and drug trafficking to be serious crimes and punishable by death in China.

Schellenberg was told in court he had the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days upon receiving the ruling, the intermediate court said in a second statement.

One week later, two Canadian nationalswere detained in China on suspicion of "engaging in activities harming China's national security".

Trudeau suggested that Kovrig still enjoyed diplomatic immunity, an assertion rejected by the Chinese foreign ministry on Monday.

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"It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our global friends and allies, that China has chosen to arbitrarily apply [the] death penalty", he said.

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He said a friend recommended him a man named Xu Qing as a translator and he was swept up in what has turned out to be an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.

Fifty people, including Canadian diplomats and foreign and domestic media, attended Monday's trial, the court said in an online statement.

At the retrial, prosecutors said that Schellenberg was heavily involved in a failed attempt to smuggle methamphetamines to Australia in pellets stuffed inside tires.

"You can ask these (critics) which laws the relevant Chinese judicial organs and departments have violated by (ordering a retrial)", foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular press briefing on Friday.

Schellenberg was again found guilty of taking part in an worldwide drug-smuggling ring, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Xu was presented as a witness by prosecutors. Foreigners have been executed before in China for drug smuggling including a Pakistani-British businessman in 2009 who some argued had been tricked into smuggling heroin.

After the retrial, Schellenberg's lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said: "The sentence is very regretful".