Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. who had been detained in China, flying home. Beijing claimed the men were spies chasing China’s state secrets.
“About 12 minutes ago, the plane with Michael Kovrig and Micheal Spavor left Chinese airspace and they are on their way home,” Trudeau announced in a television statement late Friday.
The announcement came hours after Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was released from Canadian custody after reaching an agreement with the US prosecution.
The China-bound plane carrying both Meng and the one carrying the two Canadians apparently departed from their respective airports at about the same time.
Trudeau revealed that Kovrig and Spavor boarded the plane around 19:30 Ottawa time (23:30 GMT), while Meng’s Air China aircraft reportedly took off from a Vancouver International airport around 16:35 local time (23:35 GMT).
Spavor and Kovrig were arrested in December 2018, shortly after Meng was arrested in Vancouver at the request of the United States. She faced a series of accusations, including allegedly conspiring to violate US trade sanctions against Iran. As part of the deal with prosecutors, Meng pleaded not guilty. The four-year arrangement, known as a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), was launched retroactively from the day of her first arrest in Canada on December 1, 2018.
One of the former Canadian prisoners, Spavor, was convicted of espionage in China and sentenced to 11 years in prison in August. Earlier this month, China’s state-run Global Times claimed that Spavor took photos and videos of Chinese military equipment to distribute to third parties. The other Canadian citizen, former diplomat Kovrig, was accused of gathering information on China’s national security as well. His trial was held behind closed doors in March, and the verdict had not yet been announced. Beijing also claimed that Spavor provided information to Kovrig for a long time.
Before Spavor and Kovrig were released on Friday, Canadian authorities repeatedly condemned their arrest as “random” and claimed that it was retaliation for Meng’s arrest. Beijing has denied these allegations and insisted that all legal proceedings have been followed in both cases.
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