RPT-UPDATE 2-Chinese court sentences Canadian Michael Spavor to 11 years in jail in espionage case

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BEIJING, Aug.11 (Reuters) – A Chinese court on Wednesday convicted Canadian businessman Michael Spavor of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison, in a case being considered in Ottawa and Washington as part of a broader diplomatic feud with Beijing.

His conviction comes as lawyers in Canada representing the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei make a last ditch effort to convince a court not to extradite him to the United States.

The Dandong Intermediate Court also said that 50,000 yuan of Spavor’s personal assets would be confiscated and he would be deported, although it is not known when. Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters that the deportation usually takes place after the person has finished serving their sentence, but may take place earlier in special cases.

China arrested Spavor in December 2018, days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport on a US warrant.

He was charged with espionage in June 2019. The Dandong court concluded a one-day trial in March and waited until Wednesday to announce the verdict.

Spavor’s family said in March that the charges against him were vague and had not been made public, and that he had “very limited access and interaction with his retained Chinese defense lawyer.”

Meanwhile, another Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, was also arrested in China in late 2018 days after Meng’s arrest and charged with espionage. His trial ended in March with the announcement of the verdict on an unspecified date.

China has a conviction rate well over 99%, and public and media access to trials in sensitive cases is generally limited.

Since Meng’s arrest, China has sentenced four Canadians to death for drug trafficking. They are Robert Schellenberg, Fan Wei, Ye Jianhui and Xu Weihong.

China has rejected the suggestion that the cases of the Canadians in China are linked to Meng’s case in Canada, although Beijing has warned of unspecified consequences unless Meng is released.

Meng has been accused of misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, which could lead the bank to violate US economic sanctions against Tehran.

Meng, who said she was innocent, fought her extradition from house arrest in Vancouver.

His extradition hearings in Canada are currently in their final weeks before a judge’s ruling, expected in the coming months, before Canada’s justice minister makes the final decision to extradite him. (Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Neil Fullick and Michael Perry)


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