DANDONG (CHINA):- A Canadian man detained in China for more than two years was set to face trial Friday morning for espionage, charges which Canada has attacked as “trumped up” as relations between Ottawa and Beijing plummet.
Michael Spavor is one of two Canadians detained in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest on a US extradition warrant of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and formally charged last June with spying.
AFP saw a police van with tinted windows arriving at the court in the northeastern city of Dandong on Friday morning, surrounded by about a dozen police officers as it drove past reporters waiting outside.
Spavor’s family have called for his “unconditional release,” adding that he was innocent of the accusations against him.
His family described him as “just an ordinary Canadian businessman who has done extraordinary things to build constructive ties” between Canada, China and North Korea.
Canada’s foreign ministry said Thursday that Beijing has confirmed that Canadian officials “will not be granted permission to attend the trial” despite several official requests.
Michael Kovrig’s trial is scheduled to start on Monday in Beijing.
The two men have had almost no contact with the outside world since their detention.
Virtual consular visits only resumed in October after a nine-month hiatus which authorities said was due to the coronavirus.
China’s judicial system convicts most people who stand trial and the two men face up to life in prison if found guilty of “espionage” and “providing state secrets”.
Beijing has insisted the detention of the two Canadians is lawful, while calling Meng’s case “a purely political incident”.
Meng — whose father is Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei — has been in a two-year battle against extradition to the US over charges the firm violated US sanctions on Iran.
Her court case in Vancouver has entered its final phase with hearings expected to end in mid-May, barring appeals.
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