Retrial ordered for Canadian sentenced in China for drug smuggling

A court in China has ordered a retrial for a Canadian man who was found guilty and sentenced last month on drug smuggling charges.

The Higher People's Court of Liaoning Province heard an appeal on Saturday for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who was convicted on Nov. 20 of involvement in international drug trafficking activities and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In its decision, court ruled the "light punishment" of the original sentence was "obviously inappropriate."

It sent the case back to the Dalian Intermediate People's Court for retrial. That court, in the eastern port city of Dalian, began its hearing on the case back in March 2016.

Schellenberg has been detained in Liaoning province since 2014. Global Affairs Canada says he and his family have been getting the support of consular services, and it has been following his case for "several years."

The case predates the detention of two Canadians — Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and business Michael Spavor ​— who were picked up by Chinese authorities on national-security grounds shortly after Canada arrested a Chinese tech executive at the behest of the United States.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1. She was released on bail on Dec. 11 and remains under surveillance as she prepares to fight extradition to the U.S., which has accused her of fraud and lying to banks about business activities in Iran.

Chinese officials haven't called the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor acts of retaliation but they have pointedly compared the cases, insisting the men were detained in accordance with Chinese laws but that Meng's arrest was illegal.

On Friday, Global Affairs Canada said a teacher from Alberta who was detained in China ealier this month, after the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor, has returned to Canada after being released from custody.

Sarah McIver was detained due to a work permit issue.

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