A Chinese court is expected to deliver a verdict and sentencing decision later tonight in the case of Canadian Michael Spavor, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
Spavor has been detained in China since late 2018, accused of espionage.
The verdict is expected to come as early as 10 p.m. ET tonight — which is 10 a.m. Wednesday in China — at a court in Dandong, a coastal city near the border with North Korea where Spavor is being held.
Ottawa has called repeatedly on the Chinese government to release Spavor and fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig, who were both arrested in what is widely seen as an act of retaliation nine days after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.
Meng, the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, is on trial in Vancouver where she faces possible extradition to the United States for charges linked to violation of sanctions.
Ottawa maintains that Spavor, an entrepreneur, and Kovrig, a former diplomat, were arbitrarily detained and should be released.
The source said the government is preparing for a worst case scenario, which would be a guilty verdict for Spavor. The source said efforts to bring Spavor back to Canada will continue regardless of the verdict.
Kovrig’s trial concluded in March but it’s not clear when a verdict in his case will be delivered.
Canadian officials and diplomats from up to 20 countries are expected to gather at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing tonight in a show of support for Spavor.
2nd verdict in as many days for Canadian prisoners in China
The verdict and sentencing decision for Spavor could arrive just over 24 hours after a different Chinese court upheld a death sentence for Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian convicted on charges of drug smuggling.
Schellenberg initially was handed a 15-year sentence before his punishment was upgraded to the death penalty following a retrial that lasted only one day.
The original death sentence was delivered in January 2019, a month after Meng was arrested.
Robert Schellenberg was arrested in 2014 for allegedly playing a central role in a drug smuggling operation. (CCTV/The Associated Press)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau called Schellenberg’s sentencing decision arbitrary.
“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” Garneau said in a media statement.
The European Union also formally called on China to grant clemency to Schellenberg. A spokesperson for the EU raised concerns about due process and “arbitrariness” in the case.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in Canada condemned Garneau’s statement and said the trial and sentence were in accordance with the law.