A Canadian man has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling in China.
Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, 36, was handed his sentence in Liaoning Province earlier today – following a second trial after his initial arrest in 2014.
Schellenberg was originally handed a 15-year prison term over his alleged role in smuggling methamphetamines to Australia using pellets stuffed inside tires, a charge which he and his lawyers have vigorously denied.
He was detained for over two years before he was eventually tried and given the lengthy sentence which he appealed.
Dalian Intermediate People’s Court later retried the defendant and handed down the death penalty, the court said in a brief statement on its website.
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They said they had obtained evidence that he had played a major part in the drug smuggling ring and say he was “involved in organized international drug crime.”
However, authorities ruled that Schellenberg now had the right to appeal the sentence.
His aunt, Lauri Nelson-Jones said: “He’s become a pawn.”
"We can only guess, but that is definitely what it looks like, and that is incredibly worrisome. We’re just worried that it won’t be a fair trial or a fair outcome.”
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The incident comes amid increasing tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, since the arrest of a Chinese executive in the country at the request of the United States in December.
This was followed by China’s detention of two Canadian citizens on suspicion of endangering state security.
Michael Kovrig and Michale Spavor were arrested last month by Chinese authorities over espionage charges.
They are now in secret detention where they have been denied visits by lawyers and family, the New York Times reported.