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China Sentences Canadian to Death for Drug Smuggling


A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian, where the trial for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen on drug smuggling charges, will be held, in Liaoning province, China, Jan. 14, 2019.

A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death on drug trafficking charges, leading Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accuse China of using the death penalty arbitrarily.

The Chinese court in the northeast city of Dailian retried Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was initially given a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. The court ruled Monday during the one-day retrial that the original sentence was too lenient, and sentenced Schellenberg to death by execution.

The court accused him of conspiring with others to smuggle over 200 kg of methamphetamine from China to Australia in 2014.

Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa Monday that "It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply a death penalty."

The ruling is likely to increase already heightened tensions between the two countries following the recent arrest of a senior Chinese executive in Canada, and China's subsequent detention of two Canadians on national security charges.

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer for Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 on behalf of the United States, which is seeking her extradition over alleged violations of U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.

China has denounced her arrest and warned of unspecified consequences.

Beijing has not tied the arrest of the two Canadians to Meng's detention, but Western diplomats said the move appears to be retaliatory.

Schellenberg has denied the charges against him. His lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said he would likely appeal the sentence. Zhang said that prosecutors did not introduce new evidence during Monday's trial to justify a heavier sentence.

In recent years, China has executed citizens from several foreign countries, including Britain, Japan and the Philippines, following convictions on drug charges.