Canadian tried in China on spy charges, no verdict announced

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Security officers stand in formation near a court building in Dandong in northeastern China's Liaoning Province, Friday, March 19, 2021. China was expected to open the first trial Friday for Michael Spavor, one of two Canadians who have been held for more than two years in apparent retaliation for Canada's arrest of a senior Chinese telecom executive. (AP Photo/Ken Moritsugu)

DANDONG – China on Friday put on trial one of two Canadians held for more than two years in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a senior Chinese telecom executive.

Canada said its consular officials were refused permission to attend the proceedings against Michael Spavor, who is accused by China of stealing state secrets.

Jim Nickel, the Canadian Embassy’s deputy chief of mission, said the hearing ended at noon Friday after two hours. No verdict has been announced.

Nickel declined to give other details, citing rules on protecting Spavor’s privacy.

In a statement posted on its website, the Intermediate People’s Court of Dandong in the northeastern province of Liaoning Province said it had held a closed-door hearing against Spavor on charges of spying and illegally sending state secrets abroad. It said Spavor and his defense lawyers were present for the proceedings and the court would pronounce a sentence at a date “determined in accordance with law."

Fellow Canadian Michael Kovrig is due to go before a court on Monday. The two were detained in December 2018, days after Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of the U.S. at the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. Both are charged with spying.

The entrance to the courthouse was roped off with police tape and journalists were kept outside, although not detained or told to leave, as often occurs during sensitive legal cases. Police cars and vans with lights flashing passed through the gate to the court complex, located beside the Yalu River that divides China from North Korea.

Earlier, Nickel had knocked on a court door seeking entry but was refused. Another 10 diplomats from eight countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, stood on the street opposite the courthouse in a show of support.