22 April 2019
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China after the arrest of former diplomat Michael Kovrig (inset) on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China after the arrest of former diplomat Michael Kovrig (inset) on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Canada warns US not to politicize extradition cases

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday warned the United States not to politicize extradition cases, a day after US President Donald Trump said he could intervene in the affair of a Chinese executive detained in Canada at Washington’s request, Reuters reports.

Freeland also told reporters that a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China. Authorities in China are already holding former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was detained on Monday

China has strongly protested the arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1 of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. 

Meng has been accused by US prosecutors of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions. She has said she is innocent.  

Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he would intervene in the US Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.  

But the legal process should not be hijacked for political purposes, Freeland said.  

“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice and following the rule of law,” Freeland said when asked about Trump’s comments.

Others also questioned whether Trump might be misusing the extradition request.  

“This is a legal issue and one that appears properly executed but your comments can only diminish an important extradition agreement we have with our next door neighbor,” said Bruce Heyman, a former US ambassador to Canada who was appointed by President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.

Meng was released on bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday. 

Tool of trade?

In Washington, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was concerned about the comment by Trump, saying it made it looked like US law enforcement “is a tool of either trade or political or diplomatic ends of this country”.

In response to Blumenthal, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said the Justice Department is not “a tool of trade”.

“What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” Demers said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The United States has not yet made a formal extradition petition. Once it does, if a Canadian judge rules in favor of the request, Canada’s justice minister must decide whether to extradite Meng to the US.

Kovrig is being investigated on suspicion of engaging in activities that harmed China’s national security, the state-run Beijing News reported.

The newspaper said Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group (ICG), had become the subject of an investigation by the Beijing State Security Bureau.

He was detained after police in Canada arrested Huawei’s Meng.

Freeland expressed deep concern over the Kovrig case and said a second unnamed Canadian had made contact with Canadian authorities to say Chinese officials were asking him questions. Canada has not been able to make contact with him since, she added. 

Officials said earlier they have no indication from Beijing that Kovrig’s detention was tied to Canada’s arrest of Meng. 

But they have seen an uptick in anti-Canadian sentiment online and in China, an official said, and have communicated concerns about diplomatic staff safety to the Chinese government, which beefed up security in response.

“We have in general informed our personnel in Beijing and in our consulates to take extra precautions,” an official said.

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