A spokesperson for the family of a former Abbotsford man who on Tuesday (Aug. 10) lost his bid to appeal his death sentence in China said the latest development is disappointing and “difficult to fully process.”
But Robert Schellenberg’s case isn’t closed, the spokesperson said.
“The process is ongoing and the family is choosing to be hopeful – holding out hope against hope even – that it will move forward in a better direction for their son, brother, grandson, nephew, and cousin,” reads the statement.
“The Canadian government has been clear in its condemnation of the situation and demands clemency for Robert. His family hopes for the same and believes it is still possible.”
Schellenberg was convicted of smuggling 222 kilograms of methamphetamine in China in 2014. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term in November 2018 but appealed the sentence.
A re-trial was then ordered after prosecutors said they had uncovered new evidence and argued that his sentence was too light. Schellenberg was then sentenced to death, but he found out Tuesday that an appeal of that was being denied.
Schellenberg has denied the drug-smuggling charges and has said he was a tourist visiting China and was framed by criminals.
Amnesty International said on Thursday (Aug. 11) that the Chinese court’s decision to uphold the death sentence is cruel, inhuman and contrary to international law.
Aubrey Harris, Amnesty International Canada’s coordinator of the Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty, called the ruling a flagrant violation of international law and called for Chinese authorities to halt the execution.
“This is hardly a show of justice for Robert Schellenberg, or for China – the country that still issues the highest number of death sentences in the world,” he said.
“These executions remain shrouded in secrecy, and Robert’s sentencing is no different. Despite significant concerns about the fairness of his re-trial – a rushed, one-day affair that ended with a death sentence – a higher court is choosing to stand by this cruel sentence.”
Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, Premier Justin Trudeau and Canadian ambassador Dominic Barton have all spoken out against Schellenberg’s sentence.
It has been speculated that Schellenberg was sentenced to death and that two other other Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – were detained in December 2018 in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou.
Spavor, an entrepreneur, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Wednesday for espionage. It is not yet known when Kovrig, a diplomat, will learn his fate.