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Trial of Canadian Michael Kovrig begins in China

The trial of Michael Kovrig, the second of two Canadians detained in China for more than two years, is underway in Beijing, a senior Canadian diplomat said Monday.

China arrested Kovrig, a former diplomat, and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor in December 2018, soon after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei, on a U.S. warrant.

Beijing insists the detentions are not linked to the arrest of Meng, who remains under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the United States.

Global Affairs Canada confirmed Sunday that Canadian officials won't be granted permission to attend.

"We'll continue to insist that we get access to the court today, but we're very pleased that we have such a great turnout and support for Michael Kovrig," said Jim Nickel, chargé d'affaires at the Embassy of Canada to China, outside the court on Monday in Beijing. 

"And we're hopeful that we'll be able to see him this morning and get access to the court."

The trial of Kovrig, pictured in this file image made from a March 28, 2018, video, is underway in China, according to Nickel. (File photo/The Associated Press)

Diplomats from more than 20 countries, including Canada the United States, were on site ahead of the trial.

"[U.S.] President [Joe] Biden and [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken have said that in dealing with the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the United States will treat these two individuals as if they were American citizens," William Klein, chargé d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in China, told reporters as he stood beside Nickel.

On Friday, Spavor, a businessman, underwent a trial behind closed doors in a court in the northeastern city of Dandong. The court said it will set a date later for a verdict.

Canadian and other diplomats were not allowed to attend Spavor's trial on what China said were national security grounds, a lack of transparency that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "completely unacceptable."

Observers have said the likely convictions of the two men could ultimately facilitate a diplomatic agreement whereby they are released and sent back to Canada. Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99 per cent.

Police officers stand outside a Beijing court where Kovrig is standing trial. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Earlier Sunday, Vina Nadjibulla, Kovrig's wife, praised recent public comments from Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in support of "the two Michaels," as they have become known around the world. 

But Nadjibulla said in an interview on CBC's Rosemary Barton Live that she wants to see those words translated into actions that secure their release as soon as possible.

"Solidarity and support and words are good, and we must continue to say those things," Nadjibulla told host Rosemary Barton.

"But what really will make a difference for Michael [Kovrig] and for Michael Spavor now are actions and concerted diplomatic effort on the part of all three governments to find a path forward."

WATCH | Michael Kovrig's wife hopes officials' words of support turn into action:

Vina Nadjibulla, the wife of Michael Kovrig, says she is grateful that governments in Canada and the U.S. are treating the detention of her husband and Michael Spavor in China as a priority, but she hopes their words will be translated into action. Watch Rosemary Barton Live on Sundays at 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. NT on CBC News Network and CBC Gem. 7:41

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source https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trial-michael-kovrig-china-1.5958648?cmp=rss

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