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Chinese court rejects Canadian appeal, Meng extradition case: In The News for Aug. 10

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Aug. 10 ... What we are watching in Canada ...

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Aug. 10 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Ottawa is condemning a Chinese court ruling rejecting a Canadian drug convict's appeal of a death sentence, and is appealing to China to grant clemency to Robert Schellenberg.

Schellenberg's sentence was abruptly increased from a 15-year prison term to death after the Dec. 1, 2018, arrest of Huawei tech executive Meng Wanzhou on U.S. charges related to possible dealings with Iran.

In separate cases, two other Canadians, a former diplomat and an entrepreneur, were arrested on spying charges as China demanded Meng's release.

The Higher People's Court of Liaoning Province in the northeast rejected Schellenberg's appeal and sent the case to the Chinese supreme court for review, as is required by law before death sentences can be carried out.

Dominic Barton, Canada's ambassador to Beijing criticized the penalty as "cruel and inhumane.''

"His retrial and subsequent sentence were arbitrary,'' Barton said by phone from the northeastern city of Shenyang, where he attended the appeals court hearing.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau echoed Barton's comments, saying in a statement that Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases.

Global Affairs Canada says consular services will continue to be provided to Schellenberg and his family.

Schellenberg was convicted of smuggling 222 kilograms (448 pounds) of methamphetamine, according to the court. He was sentenced in November 2018 to 15 years and resentenced to death in January 2019 after a one-day retrial.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig, and Canadian entrepreneur, Michael Spavor, were detained in December 2018 and later charged with spying.

A Canadian judge will hear final arguments in the next few weeks over whether Meng should be extradited. She has been living under house arrest in Vancouver.

Canada is, along with Australia and the Philippines, among a growing group of countries that face arrests of their citizens, trade boycotts and other pressure from Beijing over political disputes.

Barton said he would travel later Tuesday to the northeastern city of Dandong to see Spavor.

Asked when a ruling in Spavor's case might come, Barton said, "our sense is, it's tomorrow.'' As for Kovrig, the ambassador said, "we have not received any indication of that.''

Asked whether the three cases were linked to Meng's, Barton said, "I don't think it's a coincidence these are happening right now while events are going on in Vancouver,'' adding the case was "part of the geopolitical process of what is happening.''

The ambassador said Canadian diplomats talked with Schellenberg after the ruling but declined to give details.

"He is remarkably composed,'' Barton said. ``We had a good conversation.''

Diplomats from the United States, Germany, Australia and France attended Tuesday's hearing, according to Barton. He expressed thanks to them and to other governments for expressing support for Canada.

Two other Canadians, Fan Wei and Xu Weihong, also were sentenced to death on drug charges in separate cases in 2019 as relations between Beijing and Ottawa deteriorated.

The United States wants the Huawei executive, Meng, who is the company founder's daughter, extradited to face charges she lied to banks in Hong Kong in connection with dealings with Iran that might violate trade sanctions.

The Chinese government has criticized the case as a political motivated attempt to hamper the country's industry development.


Also this ...

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general are expected to argue against a stay of proceedings in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. 

Today's arguments are expected to be the last before the actual extradition hearing in Meng's case begins in the B.C. Supreme Court later this week. 

Lawyers for the chief financial officer have argued that tossing out the case is the only appropriate remedy for the list of abuses they claim she has suffered since her arrest in 2018.

The alleged abuses range from political interference by then-U. S. president Donald Trump to intentionally poor note-taking by Canadian police and border officers, but Crown lawyers have denied any misconduct occurred. 

Meng is wanted in the United States on bank fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.

Her extradition hearing is set to wrap up by Aug. 20. 


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

WASHINGTON _ The Justice Department said Monday that it would work toward providing families of 9/11 victims with more information about the run-up to the attacks as part of a federal lawsuit that aims to hold the Saudi government accountable.

The disclosure in a two-page letter filed in federal court in Manhattan follows long-standing criticism from relatives of those killed that the U.S. government was withholding crucial details from them in the name of national security.

Nearly 1,800 families, victims and first responders objected in a letter last week to President Joe Biden's attendance at Sept. 11 memorial events as long as key documents remained classified.

 Monday's move failed to placate at least some victims' relatives, who said the FBI and Justice Department have already had years to review the documents.

"We appreciate that President Biden recognizes that long-standing questions about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's involvement in the worst-ever terrorist attack on American soil remain unanswered, but nobody should be fooled by this half-hearted, insufficient commitment to transparency,'' said Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom, died when a hijacked plane flew into the World Trade Center.

She said the announcement only applies to a limited "subset of cherry-picked documents that the FBI has already identified for review.''

A long-running lawsuit accusing Saudi Arabia of being complicit in the attacks advanced significantly this year with the questioning under oath of former Saudi officials. Those depositions, however, remain under seal and the U.S. has withheld a trove of other documents as too sensitive for disclosure.

In its letter Monday, the department said that the FBI had recently concluded an investigation that examined certain 9/11 hijackers and potential co-conspirators, and that it would now work to see if information it had previously determined could not be disclosed may instead be shared. It did not reveal in the letter any findings of that probe, which it has referred to as the "Subfile Investigation.''

"The FBI will disclose such information on a rolling basis as expeditiously as possible,'' the Justice Department said. The department said in a separate statement Monday that the FBI was newly reviewing the documents for information that could be shared with the families despite prior court rulings "upholding the government's privilege assertions.''

Biden on Monday praised the Justice Department's action, saying his administration was "committed to ensuring the maximum degree of transparency under the law.''

"In this vein, I welcome the Department of Justice's filing today, which commits to conducting a fresh review of documents where the government has previously asserted privileges, and to doing so as quickly as possible,'' he said.

Multiple U.S. government investigations have examined ties between Saudi nationals and some of the airplane hijackers, but have not established that the Saudi government was directly involved.

Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudi, as was Osama bin Laden, whose al-Qaida network was behind the attacks. The Saudi government has long denied any connection.

Particular scrutiny has centred on the support offered to the first two hijackers to arrive in the U.S., Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, including from a Saudi national who helped them find and lease an apartment in San Diego.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

NEW YORK _ One of Jeffrey Epstein's longtime accusers sued Prince Andrew on Monday, taking accusations that she has repeatedly publicly lodged against him, including that he sexually assaulted her when she was 17, to a formal venue.

Lawyers for Virginia Giuffre filed the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court, where Epstein was charged criminally with sex trafficking a month before he killed himself at age 66 in August 2019 in an adjacent federal jail where he was ordered to await trial.

Giuffre has repeatedly made her allegations against Epstein, his one-time girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, and Andrew, but the lawsuit was the first time she has directly confronted Andrew in such a formal setting. It steps up public relations pressure on the prince, even if he remains beyond the reach of the courts.

In a statement, Giuffre said she was "holding Prince Andrew accountable for what he did to me.''

"The powerful and rich are not exempt from being held responsible for their actions. I hope that other victims will see that it is possible not to live in silence and fear, but to reclaim one's life by speaking out and demanding justice,'' Giuffre said.

"I did not come to this decision lightly,'' she added. "As a mother and a wife, my family comes first _ and I know that this action will subject me to further attacks by Prince Andrew and his surrogates _ but I knew if I did not pursue this action, I would be letting them and victims everywhere down.''

In late 2019, Prince Andrew told BBC Newsnight that he never had sex with Giuffre, saying, "It didn't happen.''

He said he has "no recollection'' of ever meeting her and told an interviewer there are "a number of things that are wrong'' about Giuffre's account, which alleges the encounter occurred in 2001.

"I can absolutely categorically tell you it never happened,'' Andrew said.

The interview was widely panned by critics who said Andrew seemed insensitive to Epstein's victims. Afterward, the prince quit royal duties.

Giuffre has long said Maxwell recruited her at age 17 to be sexually abused by Epstein and Maxwell from 1999 to 2002.

According to the lawsuit, which sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, the prince abused Giuffre on multiple occasions when she was under the age of 18.

During each of the alleged acts, Giuffre was given "express or implied threats'' by Epstein, Maxwell, and/or Andrew to engage in sexual acts with the prince, the lawsuit said.

It said that she "feared death or physical injury to herself or another and other repercussions for disobeying'' the trio because of their "powerful connections, wealth, and authority,'' the lawsuit said.

It said that on one occasion, the prince sexually abused her in Maxwell's London home when Epstein, Maxwell and Prince Andrew forced her to have sexual intercourse with the prince against her will.

On another occasion, the prince sexually abused Giuffre in Epstein's New York mansion when Maxwell forced Giuffre and another victim to sit on Andrew's lap as he touched her, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also alleged that Andrew sexually abused Giuffre on Epstein's private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The lawsuit added that Andrew knew her age at the time based on communications with Epstein and Maxwell. It said he went ahead anyway "for the purpose of gratifying his sexual desires.''

The lawsuit was brought under the Child Victims Act, a 2019 New York state law that allows victims to temporarily make legal claims of abuse that occurred when they were children regardless of when or how long ago the alleged abuse occurred.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges in Manhattan federal court, where she faces trial in November. She is held without bail. Her lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.


On this day in 1950 ...

Canada and United States signed the Niagara River Pact approving an increase in power output from the Niagara River.


In entertainment ...

Gordon Lightfoot is recovering after a fall at his home last week caused him to fracture his wrist.

The “If You Could Read My Mind” singer-songwriter has been forced to postpone a number of upcoming tour dates after undergoing emergency surgery at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

Victoria Lord, a representative for Lightfoot, says he is “doing just fine” but that it's expected he will take eight weeks to recover.

Most of the 82-year-old's postponed shows are in the United States, with some already rescheduled for early 2022.

A single show on Aug. 20 at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont., has also been affected but not rescheduled yet.

Lord says Lightfoot's team is optimistic he will return to the stage early this fall, noting that a Sept. 30 concert in Fredericton, N.B. is still on the calendar.

They also anticipate he'll be back in shape for a three-night run to mark the reopening of Toronto's Massey Hall on Nov. 25 to 27



An Alberta horse trainer is mourning the loss of two high value horses in a lightning storm last month.

The two horses, trained by Ian Tipton and his partner, Lisa Blanchard, were killed during a severe storm west of Sundre on July 2.

Tipton says the animals were standing in a grove of trees and died instantly, while four others nearby weren't harmed.

He says the loss is personally devastating.

Together, the horses were worth well over $100,000 US, but they were insured.

Tipton buried the pair about 15 meters from where they died.

He says his other horses return to the spot every day, as if holding a vigil.

David Phillips with Environment and Climate Change Canada says July is the deadliest month for lightning strikes.

Canada records over two million strikes a year, or about one every three seconds.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2021

The Canadian Press

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