A Chinese court on Wednesday jailed Canadian businessman Michael Spavor for 11 years for spying, a sentence swiftly condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “unacceptable and unjust”.
Spavor was detained in 2018 along with compatriot Michael Kovrig on what Ottawa has said are politically orchestrated charges after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on a US extradition warrant.
Relations between the two countries have hit rock bottom, with China also accusing Canada of politicising legal cases.
Spavor “was convicted of espionage and illegally providing state secrets”, Dandong city’s Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement.
“He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.”
‘I want to get home’
The Canadian ambassador to China, who was present in the courtroom, linked the verdict to Meng’s ongoing hearings in Vancouver.
“I don’t take it as a coincidence that we have heard the verdicts of these two cases while that trial is going on,” Dominic Barton told reporters.
In a message relayed in a consular visit after the sentencing, Spavor said: “Thank you for all your support. I am in good spirits. I want to get home.”
Trudeau called the conviction and sentencing “absolutely unacceptable and unjust”.
“The verdict for Mr Spavor comes after more than two-and-a-half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law,” he said in a statement.
Spavor can appeal the sentence, which Ambassador Barton said was handed down after prosecutors showed the court evidence including photos “at airports… places where one should not take photos and there had been some that included some military aircraft”.