Legal observers say this week’s hearings are unlikely to influence the judge, given the nature of Canada’s extradition law.
But they believe Canada’s justice minister will face increasing pressure to intervene amid allegations of political interference and China’s ongoing detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
Michael Byers, professor at the University of British Columbia, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, says that everyone with an interest in the Meng case – politicians, lawyers and the defendant herself – are probably watching the upcoming U.S. presidential elections to see how the results might impact the way ahead.
“A change of administration would be quite significant in terms of US foreign policy, and Meng’s extradition request could come into play in that regard,” Byers said.
“At some point, the political calculations could change for the Trudeau government, or maybe a Conservative government, if we have a federal election in this country. “
Accused of lying to HSBC
Meng was arrested on December 1, 2018 after flying to Vancouver from Hong Kong on his way to a business conference in Latin America.
The 48-year-old is reportedly accused of lying to an HSBC executive in August 2013 about Huawei’s dealings with a subsidiary accused of violating US economic sanctions against Iran.
According to prosecutors, HSBC has taken its word to continue funding Huawei, exposing the bank to lawsuits and losses for unintentionally violating the same set of sanctions.
Meng accused US President Donald Trump of using it as a bargaining chip in a trade war with China.
She also claims that Canadian and American authorities opened a secret criminal investigation against her, sharing information from her electronic devices and questioning her for three hours before she was formally arrested – contrary to the instructions of the judge who issued the extradition warrant.
The defense and the Crown have agreed to a schedule of intermittent court dates until February 2021, when the judge will hear arguments over Meng’s alleged rights violations.
“A presumption that the individual will be transferred”
As of Monday, Meng’s lawyers hope to convince Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that allegations that the United States has misled the court also meet the threshold required to be considered an abuse of process worthy of ending. to the procedure.
The defense team say the United States provided the judge with a biased version of events by omitting facts that prove HSBC did not rely on Meng’s assurances in deciding the bank wanted to continue funding Huawei.
Byers said it was rare for judges to end extradition proceedings on the basis of the underlying record of the case.
He referred to the extradition of Hassan Diab, a 66-year-old University of Ottawa teacher accused by French authorities of being involved in a 1980 bombing outside a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured more than 40.
Diab was extradited in 2014 to France, where he spent more than three years in near isolation while the allegations against him were investigated. He was never charged and was returned to Canada in 2018 after French judges dropped the case due to lack of evidence.
Diab and his family are now suing the federal government over Canada’s role in his extradition – including allegations that “convincing and crucial evidence” was withheld from the extradition judge, such as the fact that Canadian authorities had determined that Diab’s fingerprints did not appear to match those of the alleged bomber.
“The extradition system is based almost on a presumption that the individual will be transferred,” Byers said.
“The most common outcome is that the individual is transferred even though there are probable concerns. “
“Prolonged and illegal detention”
Vancouver attorney Gary Botting, who has written a book on Canadian extradition law, agreed with Byers that the odds of staying in Meng’s case are slim.
Botting’s take on the procedure is consistent with that of 19 high-profile Canadians – including former Liberal Minister Allan Rock and former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor – who asked Justice Minister David Lametti to end it.
Their rationale is based on a legal opinion from eminent defense lawyer Brian Greenspan, who concluded that while a Minister of Justice does not normally weigh in on extradition until the judicial phase of the process is complete, the Extradition law gives Lametti the right to release Meng at any time.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Rock, Arbor and others said they wrote as Canadians “deeply concerned about the prolonged and illegal detention” of Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, a entrepreneur, which were owned by the Chinese. from the days immediately following Meng’s arrest in 2018.
This summer, the Chinese announced formal espionage charges against Kovrig and Spavor. Legal observers believe the two men will almost certainly be found guilty at trial. The Chinese legal system has a conviction rate of 99.9%.
Trudeau has made it clear that he views the detention of the “Two Michaels” as arbitrary and has publicly stated that the United States should not enter into a trade deal with China that does not deal with Meng and the imprisoned Canadians.
But he also rejected Lametti’s call for intervention.
‘It was fixed’
Byers said he doubted the government would take action before the presidential election. But he said the extradition policy meant anything was possible afterwards.
He said he was peripherally involved in the late 1990s in the case which saw Spain attempt to extradite the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet from the UK, where he was arrested while he was seeking medical treatment.
Pinochet has been charged with the torture of Spanish citizens and the murder of a Spanish diplomat during his reign. His arrest caused a stir around the world, with human rights activists complaining against those who said Pinochet, as head of state, should be granted immunity from prosecution.
He was authorized for extradition. But in March 2000, Jack Straw, then the UK Home Secretary, ruled that Pinochet should be sent home due to health concerns based on questionable medical evidence.
The first thing Pinochet did after landing in Chile was to get up from his wheelchair to greet the supporters.
“It was fixed. This result was a fabrication designed to provide political cover to the [U.K.] government, ”Byers said.
“Politicians can refine results in all kinds of imaginative ways. ”
Likewise, Byers said no matter how things go in the courtroom, pressure from China, Kovrig and Spavor’s situation and Canada’s relationship with the United States could still lead to a change. in political calculations for Trudeau and Lametti.
“And that’s part of the strategy Ms. Meng is playing,” he said.
“She’s trying to pull this case out for as long as possible because she knows things are going to happen and the math could change. “