Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were charged by China on Friday with espionage and sharing state secrets after being held for over 500 days following the arrest of a Chinese business executive.
The pair were arrested on Dec. 10, 2018, less than a fortnight after Huawei financial executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver in response to a request from the United States, who aim to prosecute her for fraud.
The People’s Procuratorate of Beijing Municipality filed against Kovrig “for spying on state secrets and intelligence” and its Dandong counterpart charged Spavor for “spying on and illegally providing state secrets.”
The charges come with a maximum sentence of life in prison for matters that are considered serious. However, a smaller sentence of five years or less can also occur.
The justice system they are now at the mercy of has a conviction rate of 99 per cent, according to reports.
Global Affairs and the Canadian Embassy in China has not responded to requests for comment from news media.
Kovrig is an ex-Canadian diplomat who has worked as a senior adviser for North East Asia for the International Crisis Group while Spavor is a businessmen who helped to arrange travel into North Korea, reported the Globe and Mail.
The pair is at the centre of a tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.
The Canadian government has repeatedly described their detention as “arbitrary” as China has called for Canada to release Meng, who is going through an arms-length judicial process divided from the democratically-elected regime in Ottawa.
Earlier this year, the case against Meng moved against when a British Columbia court denied an initial application for Ms. Meng to be released from Canada, continuing the extradition process to the United States.
Human rights groups denounced the charges against the Canadians.
Ahead of the ruling Kovrig’s employer Crisis Group said “each passing day is a stain on China’s reputation, an injustice to Michael and an act of cruelty to his family and loved ones” and called for his release once again.
This is a developing story.
(Reporting by Eli Ridder; Sourcing from The New York Times, CNN, Reuters and the Globe and Mail)