36-year old Robert Schellenberg, the Canadian sentenced to death in China, says he was framed for drug smuggling. Schellenberg was originally charged with smuggling meth back in 2014. Following several years in detention, his trial took place just this past November.
The outcome of that trial was a 15-year prison sentence for Schellenberg. After serving that sentence, he would then be deported from China. Schellenberg and his lawyer then appealed that sentence but unfortunately for him, that meant risking a harsher sentence like the one he has received now.
At his appeal hearing on December 28th, the judge determined that new evidence presented by the prosecution changed the severity of Schellenberg's case and ordered a retrial. The retrial which was held recently is what has now resulted in Schellenberg being handed the death sentence.
The newer, harsher sentence has drawn attention now as many people are linking Schellenberg's case to the ongoing tensions between Canada and China following the arrest of Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou here. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn't speak to this potential connection, he did respond to the news of the death sentence.
Trudeau called the sentence "extremely concerning" and also said that the Chinese government has been acting arbitrarily. Another person who is obviously concerned about the sentence is Schellenberg, who has maintained not only his innocence throughout the trial but also the fact that he was framed.
According to a Chinese reporter at Schellenberg's December appeal, he claims he was framed by an acquaintance in China. He says he was not aware of the failed plan, which was to smuggle meth from China to Australia inside of tires.
Schellenberg’s Chinese acquaintance Xu Qing had blown the whistle to the cops. Xu wasn’t punished and didn’t appear in the first or second trial. Schellenberg alleged Xu stole the money from the deal then framed him. His lawyer argued the court should investigate if Xu is a 特勤— Eva Dou (@evadou) December 30, 2018
Schellenberg says he thought his acquaintance was just showing him around China and doing errands. He says he was unaware that he was actually being exposed to a meth smuggling plan. However, that same reporter revealed that during his December appeal, several of Schellenberg's statements on his framing was mistranslated to the judge.
Mistranslations throughout. Some key lines of his testimony, such as when he said, this is how Xu framed me, went untranslated. At one point he said he didn’t know about any drugs, which was translated to he didn’t know where the drugs were— Eva Dou (@evadou) December 30, 2018
In China, drug use and smuggling are incredibly serious crimes that can be punished with the death penalty.
Their laws are so harsh that you can be charged with drug trafficking even if you smoke weed, a drug that is legal in Canada, one week before travelling to China.
Robert Schellenberg can appeal his latest death sentence and his lawyer confirmed to reporters in China that he will likely file an appeal soon.