A Chinese court sentenced Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison Wednesday in a spying case that has been linked to Beijing's pressure campaign against the Canadian government over the arrest of an executive at tech giant Huawei. Spavor and another Canadian were detained in China in what critics labeled “hostage politics” after the executive, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested at the Vancouver airport in late 2018 at the request of US authorities. A Canadian court will hear final arguments in the next few weeks over whether to hand Meng over to face US criminal charges in connection with possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran. Canadian Ambassador Dominic Barton met with Spavor after his court hearing at a detention center in the city of Dandong, about 210 miles east of Beijing on the North Korean border. The ambassador said Spavor asked to send three messages: “Thank you for all your support, it means a lot to me. Two, I am in good spirits. And three, I want to get home.”
“I have a lot of respect for how he's handling this,” Barton told journalists after the verdict. “He's strong, resilient, focused on what's happening. We had a very good conversation.” Spavor was also fined $7,700, Barton said. China has released few details of the charges, other than to allege Spavor was a conduit for intelligence and sensitive information provided to former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig beginning in 2017. Kovrig also was detained in December 2018 and tried on spying charges, though no word has been given about a verdict. The two have been held in isolation for more than two years with only periodic contact with Canadian Embassy staff. On Tuesday, a Chinese court rejected the appeal of a third Canadian whose 15-year prison sentence in a drug case was abruptly increased to the death penalty following Meng’s arrest. The case of Robert Schellenberg has been automatically appealed to China's Supreme Court.
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