Robert Lloyd Schellenberg faces death sentence as Canada, China face off

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“We are all very heartbroken right now and we are all in shock. We are just overwhelmed,” Gary Schellenberg, Robert’s uncle, told CNN by phone from Abbotsford, British Columbia, within hours of hearing that his nephew had been given the death penalty for a drug conviction.

Schellenberg’s family knows the 36-year-old former oil worker as Bob, a quiet man who has led a troubled life. Now they fear he will become the victim of a high-stakes geopolitical confrontation.

“We don’t know how much to talk about right now and what to say,” says Schellenberg’s uncle, adding, “You’re not going to find out who Bob really is.” Canadian officials and his family are now scrambling to appeal the death sentence. In a statement released to CNN, his family added, “The Schellenberg family cares deeply about our Robert who is being held under very difficult circumstances in China.”

Schellenberg has maintained his innocence, points out Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s former ambassador to China, who was involved in the case from 2014 to 2016. Saint-Jacques also confirmed to CNN that Schellenberg’s life in a Chinese prison is likely quite difficult. “He is likely kept in a cell with 20 to 25 people, most likely Chinese citizens, and the sanitary conditions are minimal. They are allowed to go outside about 15 minutes a day. The food is not always adequate,” he says.

Canadian court records show that Schellenberg has previously faced legal trouble over drugs. In 2012, he was sentenced to 16 months in prison after pleading guilty to “several counts of drug-related offenses” in British Columbia. According to local media, a judge in that case referred to Schellenberg’s struggles with addiction after a workplace injury.

Timeline

In November 2018, Chinese authorities convicted Schellenberg of being an accessory to drug smuggling. He began an appeal to the verdict.

On December 1, Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive with Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested in Vancouver after Canada received an extradition request from the US government. Her detention prompted fierce objections from Beijing. She is free on bail.
Weeks later, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor. In a December 14 statement, China’s ministry of Foreign Affairs said the pair were being investigated on suspicion of endangering China’s national security. When Canada protested, China’s ambassador to Canada accused the country of “double standards” and “white supremacy” in a scathing editorial.
On December 29, a Chinese court ordered Schellenberg’s retrial, based on evidence that prosecutors say show an expanded criminal role. The timing of the retrial and harsh new sentence quickly drew scrutiny as potential retaliation for Meng’s arrest.

“The administration of justice is not the same in China and the way that they collect evidence would not be acceptable in North American tribunals,” says Saint-Jacques. However, he adds, the speed with which Schellenberg’s case moved through appeal indicates this is likely a politically motivated sentencing.

So does the fact that China sought publicity for Schellenberg’s retrial. “The fact they invited foreign journalists to attend the trial is very unusual in the Chinese system,” says Saint-Jacques.



Source : Nbcnewyork