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China court orders retrial for Canadian charged with drug smuggling

A Chinese court ordered a retrial Saturday in a case involving a Canadian convicted of drug smuggling after prosecutors claimed new evidence.

The High People's Court in Liaoning province heard the appeal by the Canadian, whom it identified as Robert Lloyd Schellenberg.

The case is the latest to test relations between Ottawa and Beijing following the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou earlier this month in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Meng is out on bail pending an extradition hearing to the United States on charges of violating sanctions against Iran. Since her arrest, multiple Canadian citizens have been detained in China, even as both governments refused to link the cases.

Until the appeal hearing, it was unclear when Schellenberg had originally been convicted or what his sentence was, but on Saturday the court provided details of the first trial verdict from November.

According to a court statement published online after the appeal hearing, he was found guilty of drug smuggling and was sentenced to 15 years in prison, ordered to pay about $22,000 (150,000 yuan) and to be deported. Schellenberg had appealed after the verdict.

But the court ordered a retrial after it adopted the prosecutors' opinion that they had found new evidence revealing the defendant was "very likely" to have played "an important role in the activities of drug smuggling."

Prosecutors insisted Schellenberg had been given a lenient punishment in the first trial that was "obviously inappropriate" with the latest evidence, the statement said Saturday. The court ordered the case to return to the trial court, but a retrial date has not been set yet.

In a statement, Maegan Graveline, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, said the department "has been following this case for several years and has been providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizen."

"We will continue to provide consular services to them and their family," she told CNN.
Asked about the Canadian's detention at a press conference Thursday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was "not aware of the specifics of the case."

China severely punishes those caught smuggling or trafficking drugs, including foreigners. Anyone found with more than 50 grams (1.76 ounces) of a controlled substance can face the death penalty.

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