Drug mule gets death penalty

Court finds pre­vi­ous rul­ing ‘too le­nient’

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL -

A Chi­nese court sen­tenced a Cana­dian man to death on drug traf­fick­ing charges yes­ter­day after his pre­vi­ous 15-year prison sen­tence was deemed too le­nient, a rul­ing likely to deepen a diplo­matic rift be­tween Ot­tawa and Bei­jing. Robert Lloyd Schel­len­berg, 36, nod­ded as the j udge asked him whether he un­der­stood the ver­dict, fol­low­ing a day-long re­trial in which he de­clared his in­no­cence. “The court com­pletely re­jects the ac­cused per­son’s ex­pla­na­tion and de­fence be­cause it is com­pletely at odds with the facts,” the chief judge said in a court­room packed with ob­servers — among them Cana­dian em­bassy of­fi­cials and for­eign re­porters. He can ap­peal against the sen­tence at an up­per court. Schel­len­berg had orig­i­nally been sen­tenced to 15 years in prison and a 150,000-yuan (708,000 baht) for­fei­ture in Novem­ber. But fol­low­ing an ap­peal, a high court in Liaon­ing ruled in De­cem­ber that the sen­tence was too le­nient given the sever­ity of his crimes. “I am not a drug smug­gler. I came to China as a tourist,” Schel­len­berg said in his fi­nal state­ment be­fore the sen­tence was an­nounced. The sen­tence comes against the back­drop of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s anger over the ar­rest in Canada of a top ex­ec­u­tive from tele­com giant Huawei last month on a US ex­tra­di­tion re­quest re­lated to Iran sanc­tions vi­o­la­tions. Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have since de­tained two Cana­dian na­tion­als on sus­pi­cion of en­dan­ger­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, a move seen as re­tal­i­a­tion over the Huawei ex­ec­u­tive’s ar­rest. Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has ac­cused China of “ar­bi­trar­ily and un­fairly” de­tain­ing for­mer diplo­mat Michael Kovrig and busi­ness con­sul­tant Michael Spa­vor. The Dalian court said Schel­len­berg, who was de­tained in De­cem­ber 2014, played a “key part” in an in­ter­na­tional drug traf­fick­ing syn­di­cate. “Not just con­tent with spread­ing drugs in one coun­try, the syn­di­cate has spread across bor­ders... it is a harm to hu­man health and also to the sta­bil­ity of coun­tries,” the court said. Schel­len­berg claimed the drug deal was mas­ter­minded by Khamla Wong, a Cana­dian who was ar­rested in Thai­land in 2016 on drug charges. But Chi­nese prose­cu­tors said Schel­len­berg was the prin­ci­pal sus­pect in a case in­volv­ing an in­ter­na­tional syn­di­cate that planned to send some 222 kilo­grammes of metham­phetamine to Aus­tralia, hid­den in plas­tic pel­lets which were con­cealed in rub­ber tyres. China has ex­e­cuted other for­eign­ers for drug-re­lated crimes in the past, in­clud­ing a Ja­panese na­tional in 2014 and a Filip­ina in 2013. Ex­perts said re­tri­als are rare in China, es­pe­cially ones call­ing for a harsher sen­tence. Ot­tawa has said it was fol­low­ing the case “very closely” and has pro­vided Schel­len­berg with con­sular as­sis­tance. China’s for­eign min­istry said on Fri­day crit­ics “can stop sus­pect­ing oth­ers of politi­cis­ing le­gal is­sues just be­cause they have done so”.

REUTERS

A gen­eral view of the In­ter­me­di­ate Peo­ple’s Court of Dalian yes­ter­day, where the trial of Robert Lloyd Schel­len­berg, a Cana­dian cit­i­zen on drug smug­gling charges was held.

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