Michael Spavor: Canadian spy trial in China ends without verdict

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig
Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig have been held since December 2018 (Image: AFP)

The closely-watched trial of a Canadian businessman accused of espionage has ended in China with no verdict.

It is the latest development in what has turned into a diplomatic spat between China and the US and Canada.

Michael Spavor was arrested two years ago along with fellow Canadian and former diplomat Michael Kovrig.

The detentions came days after Canada detained Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive at Chinese tech giant Huawei, on a US warrant.

Canada has accused China of conducting “hostage diplomacy”. Beijing denies the cases are linked.

Mr Spavor’s trial, which took place in the northern Chinese city of Dandong on Friday morning, appeared to have lasted just two hours. It is not unusual for some trials in China to take place swiftly.

He appeared in court to face charges of “spying and illegal provision of state secrets abroad”, according to a statement from the court, which also said it would set a later date for the verdict.

As the trial took place, a group of foreign diplomats gathered outside the court, all of whom were denied entry. Among them was the charge d’affaires of the Canadian embassy in China, Jim Nickel, who told reporters that it was a breach of international law to bar them from the trial.

He added that Canadian diplomats were also refused access to Mr Spavor before his trial, and that they were “disappointed by the lack of transparency and the lack of access”.

The court statement said Friday’s hearing was closed to the public as the case involved state secrets.

Mr Kovrig is due to go on trial next week. Both Canadians have been held in prison since their arrest in December 2018.

They were formally indicted in June last year, and face lengthy jail terms if found guilty.

Mr Spavor is a founding member of the Paektu Cultural Exchange, an organisation which facilitates international business and cultural ties with North Korea.

Mr Kovrig worked for the International Crisis Group think tank.

US President Joe Biden has publicly supported calls for the two men’s release and has pledged to work with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure “their safe return”.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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