A Canadian man was on Monday sentenced to death for drug smuggling at an Intermediate People’s Court in China’s Liaoning province. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s death sentence comes after he appealed his original 15-year sentence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quick to condemn the ruling indicating it was certain to aggravate tense relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
“It is of extreme concern to us as a government, as it should be to all our international friends and allies, that China has chosen to begin to arbitrarily apply [the] death penalty … as in this case facing a Canadian,” he told reporters Monday morning.
Schellenberg’s aunt Lauri Nelson-Jones told CBC Radio; “All I can really say at this moment is, it is our worst-case fear confirmed. Our thoughts are with Robert at this time. It is rather unimaginable what he must be feeling and thinking. It is a horrific, unfortunate, heartbreaking situation. We anxiously anticipate any news regarding an appeal.”
In Monday’s ruling, the court said Schellenberg had conspired with others to smuggle 222 kg (489.43 lb) of methamphetamine from China to Australia in late 2014.
The drug syndicate allegedly concealed 222 bags of the drug in plastic pellets and shipped it from Guangdong to Dalian. It planned to conceal it in tires and tubing and ship it via container to Australia, according to the court.
Chinese state television said in an earlier report that Schellenberg argued in court that he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals.
Before his arrest, on Dec. 1, 2014, Schellenberg had prepared to flee to Thailand from Dalian but was arrested when in transit in Guangzhou, the court said.
The court has not offered further information about Schellenberg, including his age and occupation, though media reports have said he is 36 years of age and a former oil worker.
A lawyer for Schellenberg, Zhang Dongshuo, told Reuters his client probably would appeal the death sentence.