01/14/2019 08:19 EST | Updated 01/14/2019 13:42 EST

Canadian Robert Schellenberg Sentenced To Death In China In Drug-Smuggling Case

Chinese courts had ordered a retrial for Schellenberg, which raised the possibility of a harsher sentence.

TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will do everything it can to intervene on behalf of a Canadian sentenced to death in China.

Canadian Robert Schellenberg, who is accused of smuggling drugs into China, has been handed a death sentence after a one-day retrial.

"I will say 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 death penalty as in this case facing a Canadian," Trudeau said at a news conference Monday.

"As a government, we actually strengthened the policy that requires the Canadian government to always intercede on behalf of a Canadian facing the death penalty anywhere in the world. We will continue to do that as we have in this case."

A general view of the Intermediate People's Court of Dalian, where the trial for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, a Canadian citizen on drug smuggling charges, will be held, in Liaoning province, Jan. 14, 2019.

In December, Chinese state media raised Schellenberg's case, who at that point was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was originally detained in China in 2014, with a trial that began in 2016. He was sentenced in 2018.

Courts heard an appeal of that conviction on Dec. 29, 2018, and ordered a retrial for Monday, raising the possibility of a harsher sentence.

Schellenberg was again found guilty of taking part in an international drug-smuggling ring, according to the Wall Street Journal. Drug smuggling is an offence punishable by death in China.

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An expert on the Chinese legal system told the National Post that it appears China had raised Schellenberg's case to pressure Canada to release previously detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

"China has moved from merely detaining Canadians as hostages to actually threatening — subtly, to be sure — to kill a Canadian who would otherwise not have been executed if it does not get what it wants," Donald Clarke said.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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