China to begin first trial of Canadians held on spy charges

China to begin first trial of Canadians held on spy charges”

Global Affairs Canada only learned Wednesday that Spavor's court hearing would proceed on Friday - one day after closely watched high-level meetings between US and Chinese officials in Alaska.

A hearing for Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, has been scheduled for Monday.

Jim Nickel, Charge d'affaires of the Canadian embassy in Beijing, told reporters they were "disappointed by the lack of transparency and the lack of access". No verdict was announced. It said Spavor and his defense lawyers were present for the proceedings and the court would pronounce a sentence at a date "determined in accordance with law".

And 830 days after state security agents seized Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, China has yet to disclose any evidence against the men, whose lengthy incarceration is - outside denials from Chinese authorities - nearly universally seen as reprisal for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Both are charged with spying.

A group of 10 diplomats from eight other countries including Britain, the US, France and Australia also travelled to Dandong, in what Nickel described as a gesture of solidarity for Spavor and to "register their opposition to arbitrary detention".

Trudeau had rejected calls for a prisoner-swap earlier past year, saying "we can not allow political pressures or random arrests of Canadian citizens to influence the functioning of our justice system". The US is seeking her extradition to face fraud charges related to the telecom giant's dealings with Iran, which is under American financial sanctions.

She was released on $7.4 million bail on December 11, allowing her to stay at a luxury home owned by her husband in Vancouver under electronic surveillance pending her USA extradition hearing.

Meng, who remains free on bail in Vancouver, is the daughter of the founder of Huawei, which China's government has promoted around the world as one of its national champions.

Kovrig, a Hong Kong-based International Crisis Group analyst, was charged in June with spying on state secrets.

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Prosecutors have not released details of the charges and trial proceedings in national security cases are generally held behind closed doors.

The state-owned Global Times newspaper said Kovrig was accused of having used an ordinary passport and business visa to enter China to steal sensitive information and intelligence through contacts in China since 2017. The Communist Party "controls the courts there".

Kovrig and Spavor were detained by the Chinese government on national security allegations just days after Meng's December 2018 arrest in Vancouver.

Paisana said Meng was never told during questioning that she faced an arrest warrant in the U.S. and would have immediately asked for a lawyer if so informed. British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes suggested border officers would have questioned Meng more rigorously if their exam was actually a covert criminal investigation, as her lawyers said.

China has asked for Wanzhou's immediate and unconditional release.

Canadian diplomats waved as a police van with tinted windows believed to be carrying Spavor drove out of the court.

After Mr Kovrig and Mr Spavor were charged with espionage previous year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the "political" nature of their case, saying their detention was a "decision made by the Chinese government and we deplore it".

Nickel said, with United States support, Canada hopes to obtain their "immediate release".

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