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Former Abbotsford man loses bid to appeal death sentence in China

Robert Schellenberg was sentenced to death in January 2019 on drug-smuggling charges
Robert Schellenberg, formerly of Abbotsford, is shown here on Chinese media during his drug-smuggling re-trial in China in January 2019.

A former Abbotsford man has lost his bid to appeal his death sentence in China.

The Higher People’s Court of Liaoning province in northeast China rejected an appeal on Tuesday by Robert Schellenberg, whose 15-year prison term on drug-smuggling charges was increased to death in January 2019 following the arrest of Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou.

The court sent the case to China’s supreme court for review, a required step before a death sentence can be carried out.

The Canadian government criticized the ruling as arbitrary and the penalty as “cruel and inhumane.”

“We condemn the verdict in the strongest possible terms and call on China to grant Robert clemency,” Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton told reporters by phone after attending the appeals hearing in Shenyang, about 20 kilometres west of Dandong.

Schellenberg was convicted of smuggling 222 kilograms of methamphetamine in China in 2014. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term in November 2018 but appealed the sentence.

RELATED: Man sentenced to death in China had prior drug convictions in Abbotsford

A re-trial was then ordered after prosecutors argued that his sentence was too light, and Schellenberg was sentenced to death.

After the sentence, Abbotsford MP Ed Fast called on the prime minister to intervene in the case, saying the government of China was “politicizing” the appeal in retaliation for the arrest of Meng.

“While I do not question Mr. Schellenberg’s criminal past or China’s right to govern its own criminal justice system, that does not extend to the use of the death penalty, which Canada fiercely opposes,” Fast said at the time.

RELATED: MP Ed Fast calls on PM to intervene in drug-smuggling death sentence in China

An official court account of the case previously published online states that Schellenberg was involved in an international drug-trafficking scheme in which drugs were to be hidden in plastic pellets in tires and shipped to Australia.

Schellenberg’s defence was that he was a tourist visiting China, and he was framed by criminals, according to reports from some of the foreign media who attended the trial and sentencing.

His sentence came after China detained two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – in December 2018 in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng.

Spavor, an entrepreneur, is facing a possible verdict Wednesday on charges of spying. It’s not known when a verdict will come down for Kovrig, a diplomat.

RELATED: Canadian faces spy ruling as Huawei decision looms

Meng was arrested Dec. 1, 2018 in Vancouver on U.S. charges of lying to the Hong Kong arm of the British bank HSBC about possible dealings with Iran in violation of trade sanctions.

A judge in Vancouver is due to hear final arguments in the next few weeks about whether Meng should be extradited to the United States. Her lawyers argue the case is politically motivated and what she is accused of isn’t a crime in Canada.

Joe Mcdonald, The Associated Press

with files from Vikki Hopes, The Abbotsford News

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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