MichaelSpavorWorld News

Michael Spavor: Canadian spy trial in China ends without verdict

image copyrightAFP

image captionMichael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig have been held since December 2018

The closely-watched trial of a Canadian businessman accused of espionage has ended in China with no verdict.

It is the latest development in what has turned into a diplomatic spat between China and the US and Canada.

Michael Spavor was arrested two years ago along with fellow Canadian and former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

The detentions came days after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, on a US warrant.

Canada has accused China of conducting “hostage diplomacy”. Beijing denies the cases are linked.

Mr Spavor’s trial, which took place in the northern Chinese city of Dandong on Friday morning, appeared to have lasted just two hours. It is not unusual for some trials in China to take place swiftly.

He appeared in court to face charges of “spying and illegal provision of state secrets abroad”, according to a statement from the court, which also said it would set a later date for the verdict.

As the trial took place, a group of foreign diplomats gathered outside the court, all of whom were denied entry. Among them was the charge d’affaires of the Canadian embassy in China, Jim Nickel, who told reporters that it was a breach of international law to bar them from the trial.

He added that Canadian diplomats were also refused access to Mr Spavor before his trial, and that they were “disappointed by the lack of transparency and the lack of access”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday called the closed-door proceedings “completely unacceptable”.

“Their arbitrary detention is completely unacceptable, as is the lack of transparency around these court proceedings,” Mr Trudeau told reporters at a news conference.

The court statement said Friday’s hearing was closed to the public as the case involved state secrets.

The charge d’affaires of the US embassy in Canada, Katherine Brucker, said in a statement that US officials were “deeply alarmed” by the trials and “lack of minimum procedural protections” for the two Canadians.

“The practice of arbitrary detention to exercise leverage over foreign governments is completely unacceptable – human beings should never be used as bargaining chips.”

Mr Kovrig is due to go on trial next week. Both Canadians have been held in prison since their arrest in December 2018.

They were formally indicted in June last year, and face lengthy jail terms if found guilty.

Mr Spavor is a founding member of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organisation which facilitates international business and cultural ties with North Korea.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionMr Spavor (L), seen here in 2014, helped to facilitate the friendship between former US basketball player Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un

Mr Kovrig worked for the International Crisis Group think tank.

US President Joe Biden has publicly supported calls for the two men’s release and has pledged to work with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure “their safe return”.

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In 2019 the founder of Huawei Ren Zhengfei – who is the father of Meng Wanzhou – claimed in an interview that her arrest was politically motivated.

media captionRen Zhengfei described the arrest of his daughter as politically motivated

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