A court in China on Wednesday sentenced Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison on charges of spying, AP reported.
The court also ordered his deportation, but did not specify if it would take place before or after his prison term, according to CNN.
China has accused Spavor of providing sensitive information to former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. Both Spavor and Kovrig were detained in December 2018.
Spavor is a member of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organisation that seeks to facilitate business and cultural relations between North Korea and other countries, BBC reported.
The verdict prompted an angry response from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said that his government was working to secure Spavor and Kovrig’s safe return.
“China’s conviction and sentencing of Michael Spavor is absolutely unacceptable and unjust,” the prime minister said in a statement. “The verdict for Mr Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law.”
Spavor had been detained after an executive at tech giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in 2018 in Canada’s Vancouver airport on a request from the United States. She is accused of violating American sanctions on Iran.
Meng is currently under house arrest in Vancouver. A court in Canada is expected to hear final arguments about whether to hand her over to the US in the next few weeks, AP reported.
On Wednesday, Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton said that he spoke to the entrepreneur after the verdict. Spavor asked him to send three messages to the Canadian government, CNN reported.
“One, thank you for all your support, it means a lot to me,” Barton said, conveying Spavor’s messages. “Two, I am in good spirits, and three, I want to get home.”
Canadian authorities have interpreted the sentence handed out to Spavor as 11 years in prison followed by deportation, Barton said. However, the government is considering ways to bring him back to his home country earlier, he added.