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The first trial of Canadians on charges of espionage will begin in China

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DANDONG, China (AP) – China was expected to open the first trial on Friday for one of two Canadians who have been detained for more than two years in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior Chinese telecoms executive.

Canada said its consular officials were not allowed to attend the trial, despite several requests. They have been informed that the trial for Michael Spavor will be held on Friday, followed by the trial of Michael Kovrig on Monday.

China has not publicly confirmed the court date, and calls to Dandong court in the northeastern city where Spavor was accused went unanswered.

The sidewalks were torn off with police tape and journalists were kept away when police cars and light vans entered the courthouse on the Yalu River, which separates China from North Korea.

“The official announcement from the Chinese authorities shows that these trials are closed to both the public and the media,” said Christel Chart, chief of Canada’s Global Affairs Officer.

Sparrow ով Kovrig was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver Airport in British Columbia, days after the arrest of Huawei CEO Meng Wangzhou at the request of the United States. The United States is trying to extradite him on fraud charges related to his company’s dealings with Iran.

The two Canadians have been detained since then, while Meng was released on bail. They were charged in June 2020 with espionage under Chinese national security law.

Spawor, a North Korean business businessman, was accused of spying for a foreigner and illegally leaking state secrets. Kovrig, an analyst and former diplomat, has been accused of collaborating with Spavor to spy on state secrets and intelligence.

Prosecutors have not released details of the charges, and national security trials are generally closed. The state-run Global Times reports that Kovrig was accused of using a regular passport – a business visa to enter China – to steal sensitive information through communication in China from 2017, while Spavor was accused of covering Kovrig. to be the main source of intelligence.

In Vancouver on Thursday, Meng’s lawyers reported his extradition when Canadian officials abused their authority when they conspired with the United States to arrest him. Defense attorney Tony Paisana said Canadian Border Patrol officers took Meng’s phones, obtained their passwords and then handed them over to Canadian police for transfer to the FBI.

Paisana said that during the interrogation, Meng was never told that he had been arrested in the United States, and that he would immediately ask for a lawyer if he was informed. Heather Holmes, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, believes that the border guards would have interrogated Meng more if their investigation was in fact a covert criminal investigation, according to his lawyers.

China has demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Meng, saying the United States had worked out its detention as part of a crackdown on growing China. Canadian authorities say Kovrig and Spavor were arbitrarily arrested for pressuring Ottawa, and say they should be released without charge.

China has restricted various Canadian exports, including canola oil seeds, and handed down death sentences to four Canadians convicted of drug smuggling.

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Associated Press writers Rob Gillis in Toronto և Mor my Morris in Vancouver, British Columbia, contributed to this report.

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