A court in northeast China's Liaoning Province has sentenced Canadian citizen Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for alleged drug smuggling, as tensions persist between Beijing and Ottawa over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou last month in Vancouver.
While reviewing the appeal, Liaoning province's high court argued that the Canadian had been part of an worldwide drug smuggling operation and ruled that the initial punishment was too lenient, considering the crimes that he had committed.
Now, the court has ruled that he should be executed. "I am a normal person", he said in court Monday.
Beijing has taken the unusual step of inviting selected foreign media to observe the retrial.
Schellenberg, who was reportedly detained in northeast Liaoning province in 2014, is accused of playing an important role in drug smuggling and of potential involvement in global organised crime. While he appealed the sentence, the effort backfired in December 2018, with the court ruling that his initial sentence was too lenient in light of the charges he'd been convicted of.More news: 'Roma' Is The Big Winner At Critics' Choice Awards
In his defence at the retrial, Schellenberg argued that he was a tourist framed by criminals, rejecting allegations made by the prosecutors.
In an opening statement, Schellenberg said he had come to China after travelling through Southeast Asia, including Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
"Amnesty International is very concerned that Robert Schellenberg may be sentenced to death, particularly as drug-related offences do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes", to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law", Nee said.
"This is a case about Xu Qing".
"This is a case about Xu Qing, he is an global drug smuggler and a liar", Schellenberg told the court.More news: Samsung’s foldable phone could launch alongside the Galaxy S10
Prosecutors brought in Xu as a witness, who in close to two hours of testimony never once turned to look at Schellenberg.
Two other Chinese men have been involved in this case - one has sentenced to life imprisonment, another handed a suspended death sentence.
An expert on the Chinese legal system told the National Post that it appears China had raised Schellenberg's case to pressure Canada to release previously detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
"He's become a pawn", his aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones told the New York Times.
"Sending the case back for retrial gives China the opportunity to threaten death and to drag out that threat for as long as necessary", he wrote. Schellenberg will have the right to appeal the sentence, according to Reuters.More news: Patriots' AFC Championship Game hosting hopes dashed by Colts' stinker
"Even though such sentences are virtually always commuted when the two-year period expires, everyone would understand that the Chinese authorities could always find a reason not to commute".