Abbotsford man sentenced to death in Chinese drug smuggling case
Published Monday, January 14, 2019 8:06AM PST
Last Updated Monday, January 14, 2019 5:59PM PST
A local politician is calling for intervention from the prime minister after learning an Abbotsford, B.C. man has been sentenced to death in China.
In a statement, MP Ed Fast asked Justin Trudeau to take action to save the life of Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.
The Canadian citizen was first detained in 2014 following a drug trafficking investigation. Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison for being an accessory to drug smuggling, an allegation he has denied.
"Mr. Schellenberg appealed his sentence and China changed his sentence to the death penalty," Fast said in the statement.
The sentence was changed by a Chinese court on Monday, following his retrial.
"It appears the Government of China may be politicizing this case in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou."
Meng was arrested at the Vancouver International Airport last month, wanted by American officials on allegations of violating sanctions on Iran. She was released on bail, and is living under several conditions at one of her homes in Vancouver pending a possible extradition hearing.
"Since the December 1st arrest of Ms. Wanzhou, Canada has been subject to retaliatory detentions by the Chinese government. Dozens of Canadians have been detained on administrative grounds of had their visas questioned," Fast said.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor have also been arrested in China on suspicion of endangering national security, and a teacher was detained while in the country but has since been released.
Fast called on the Trudeau Government Monday to outline the steps being taken to ensure Schellenberg does not lose his life, and asked for immediate intervention.
The prime minister voiced his concerns from Ottawa, saying the country would do all it can, as it does whenever Canadians are facing execution abroad.
"This is very much a concern to see that China is acting arbitrarily and applying the death penalty to a Canadian," he said.
Trudeau said Canadian officials will continue to talk to allies and China about the case, and that Beijing's actions should be worrisome for "all our international friends and allies."
In a statement emailed to CTV News, his family also asked the government to protect its citizens.
"The Schellenberg family cares deeply about our Robert who is being held under very difficult circumstances in China," his aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones wrote.
She said the family has been working with Fast to communicate with the prime minister their desire for fair treatment of their relative.
"The Schellenberg family requests that all Canadians stand with us and pray for the safe return of our loved one," Nelson-Jones said.
The Associated Press reported that Schellenberg's lawyer has 10 days to appeal his new sentence.
The court said he'd been recruited to help smuggle more than 222 kilograms of methamphetamine from a warehouse in Australia. A Chinese citizen convicted in the same smuggling operation was given a suspended death sentence.
Global Affairs travel advisory
Later on Monday, Global Affairs Canada sent a statement to media reminding the public of a travel advisory in effect.
"We continue to advise all Canadians travelling to China to exercise a high degree of caution; this risk level remains unchanged," the department said.
Caution is encouraged "due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro, The Associated Press and The Canadian Press