Canadian Robert Schellenberg sentenced to death in China

Case is likely again to test relations between Beijing and Ottawa

A Chinese police officer stands outside a prison in Dalian in northeastern China’s province of Liaoning on April 9, 2010. According to a statement on a Liaoning court’s website, Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian, on Monday was given the death penalty for drug smuggling. (Masao Mizuno/Kyodo News via AP)

A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a Canadian man to death for drug smuggling after prosecutors said an original 15-year sentence given in November was too lenient.

Dalian Intermediate People’s Court in the northeast province of Liaoning re-tried Robert Lloyd Schellenberg and decided on execution, the court said in a statement on its website.

The case will further test bilateral relations, already tense since Canada’s arrest of a Chinese executive at the request of the United States in December, followed by China’s detention of two Canadians on suspicion of endangering state security.

Schellenberg was told in court he has the right to appeal to Liaoning High Court within 10 days upon receiving the ruling, the court said in second statement, adding that he was involved in organized international drug crimes.

Schellenberg’s lawyer Zhang Dongshuo told Reuters he will likely appeal the sentence. Schellenberg, who was to have been deported after serving his sentence, had lodged an appeal after being handed a 15-year sentence on Nov. 20 in Dalian.

Schellenberg has been detained in Liaoning since 2014,  predating the detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.

He was originally sentenced in November but appealed, the reason for the retrial.

At the appeal hearing, prosecutors argued Schellenberg was likely to be part of an international drug smuggling operation. The Appeals Court agreed and ruled the “light punishment” of the 15-year sentence was “obviously inappropriate.”

China treats drugs offences seriously and is known to use severe punishment.

In 2009, China executed a Briton caught smuggling heroin, prompting an outcry back in the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown, British prime minister at the time, condemned the killing of Akmal Shaikh, while the man’s friends and supporters claimed he was mentally unstable and unwittingly lured into the crime.​

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