By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the death sentence given to a Canadian in a Chinese court Monday.
He said other nations should be concerned about the verdict handed out to Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was found guilty of drug smuggling.
“It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply (the) death penalty … as in this case facing a Canadian,” Trudeau told reporters after news of the verdict by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court was announced.
He added that Canada would “continue to talk to our allies and to China about this.”
Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 and was tried in 2016 for his alleged part in smuggling 489 pounds (222 kilograms) of methamphetamine from China to Australia. He received a 15-year sentence at that time. The accused said he was simply a tourist and was duped by criminals.
Schellenberg appealed and a new trial was ordered. Prosecutors argued Monday that the original sentence was too lenient given the magnitude of drugs involved and the court agreed in handing down the death sentence.
Canadian officials have expressed concern the sentence is in retaliation for the December arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
She was detained in Vancouver at the request of the U.S. government that wants her to face fraud charges in the United States. She is out on bail in Vancouver while awaiting an extradition hearing.
The arrest incensed the Chinese government who called for her immediate release.
Former Canadian diplomat Ben Rowswell, head of the Canadian International Council think tank, said Monday the Schellenberg case will be “on the top of the agenda” for Canadian officials, beginning with Trudeau.
“They will be doing everything possible in closed, secret, diplomatic channels to try and reach a resolution,” he said.
Schellenberg would be the first Canadian executed in China.