China released two Canadians for ‘health reasons’: state media

Beijing, Sep 26 (EFE).- The two Canadian men China had detained since December 2018 were released on bail “for health reasons,” state media reported late Saturday.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were accused of espionage, returned to Canada on Saturday.

Their release came as Chinese tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou returned to Shenzhen from Vancouver after reaching an agreement with United States authorities, which suspended the extradition process against her.

The two Chinese courts that tried Kovrig and Spavor approved their “release on bail” on Saturday, state news agency Xinhua reported, citing Chinese “national security authorities.”

“The two defendants applied for release on bail for health reasons,” Xinhua said.

“Based on verifications and medical diagnoses, the courts on Saturday approved their release on bail and ruled on the suspension of their trials. The national security authorities were tasked to enforce the court decisions.”

Kovrig is a former diplomat who at the time of his arrest was working for the International Crisis Group think tank, while Spavor is a businessman with close ties to North Korea.

The two Canadians were detained in China in December 2018, widely viewed as retaliation for Meng’s arrest in Vancouver days earlier at the request of the US, which pushed for her extradition and accused her of bank fraud to evade sanctions imposed by Washington on Iran.

Beijing has always denied that the arrests of the Canadians had any connection to Meng’s case.

Following her arrest, Meng was under house arrest with her family in one of the mansions she owns in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, the “two Michaels,” as they are popularly known in Canada, remained in China in strict isolation for three years, according to the Canadian press, with limited visits by Canadian consular personnel.

Spavor was sentenced in August to 11 years in prison, a fine and deportation. A decision had yet to be made in the case of Kovrig.

“The court found that Spavor had taken pictures and videos of Chinese military equipment, all classified state secrets, on various occasions and provided some of them to overseas individuals,” Xinhua said.

It added that, between 2017 and 2018, Kovrig “entered China under false pretenses, collecting a huge amount of secret information concerning Chinese national security through third parties. He also wrote reports based on the information and provided them to overseas organizations.”

“The two defendants confessed to all their offenses and wrote statements of confession expressing remorse,” national security authorities said, according to Xinhua.

Kovrig and Spavor arrived in Calgary, Canada, around 6 am local time (12:00 GMT) on Saturday.

Their release came shortly after Meng came to an agreement with the US authorities to suspend the judicial process against her, which made it possible for her to return from Canada to China on Saturday.

So far, no Chinese authority has referred to the release of the Canadians. On Saturday, Chinese spokesmen limited themselves to describing the Meng case as one of “political persecution” to “repress China’s high-tech companies.”

The simultaneous arrival on Saturday of Spavor and Kovrig to their home country, and Huawei’s financial director to theirs, marked the beginning of the end of a serious crisis that has damaged diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing for the past three years. EFE


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