Canadian Robert Schellenberg Sentenced To Death In China In Drug-Smuggling Case

A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian in Liaoning province China Jan. 14 2019

A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian in Liaoning province China Jan. 14 2019

A Chinese court has sentenced a Canadian man to death in a drug smuggling case.

A former oil worker, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, was initially arrested back in 2015 on suspicion of smuggling more than 200 kilograms of methamphetamine into China.

China's strict drug laws apply a sentence of "15 years, life imprisonment or death" as well as property confiscation for drug trafficking in amounts over a kilogram. His appeal backfired as a high court in Liaoning ruled in December that the sentence was too lenient given the severity of his crimes.

There has been little public information from the courts about Schellenberg's case, rights groups say, making it hard to keep track of it.

The report said Schellenberg tried to flee to Thailand after he became aware of the police investigation but was intercepted in Guangzhou.

A new trial was ordered and took place Monday, according to a Google translation of a Chinese court website, with Schellenberg being found guilty and given a death sentence.

In his defence at the retrial, Schellenberg argued that he was a tourist framed by criminals, rejecting allegations made by the prosecutors.

He said a friend recommended a man named Xu Qing as a translator, and Schellenberg was swept up in what turned out to be an worldwide drug trafficking syndicate.

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"This is a case about Xu Qing".

"It's clear that Chinese courts are not independent, and by systematic design, courts can be influenced by Communist Party officials", William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told AFP.

Prosecutors brought in Xu as a witness, who in close to two hours of testimony never once turned to look at Schellenberg.

China has since detained two Canadian nationals, accusing them of endangering national security.

In earlier interviews, Schellenberg's aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones said she was concerned that increasing tensions between Beijing and Ottawa could mean a tougher sentence for her nephew.

He can appeal against the sentence at an upper court.

The crux of the retrial hinges on how much Schellenberg knows about the drug deal, which he claims was masterminded by Khamla Wong, a Canadian who was in 2016 arrested on drug charges.

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