Businessman Michael Spavor, who has been detained since December 2018, was found guilty of spying by a Chinese court in Dandong, attracting the Canadian national 11 years in prison, in a case seen in Ottawa and Washington as part of a wider diplomatic spat with Beijing.

Spavor, who for years ran a travel and cultural exchange business between China and North Korea, “was convicted of espionage and illegally providing state secrets”, Dandong city’s Intermediate People’s Court said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.”

Spavor’s sentencing comes as lawyers in Canada representing the chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei make a final push to convince a court there not to extradite her to the United States. He got detained in December 2018, days after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States.

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The Dandong court concluded a one-day trial in March that lasted a little more than two hours and waited until Wednesday to announce the verdict.

The sentencing has however attracted widespread condemnation from the west.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau calls it “absolutely unacceptable” while the United States embassy in Beijing says espionage cases are attempts to “use human beings as bargaining leverage”

“China’s conviction and sentencing of Michael Spavor is absolutely unacceptable and unjust,” said Trudeau in a statement.

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“The verdict for Mr. Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process, and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law,” he said.

Trudeau called for the release of Spavor, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, who is awaiting a verdict in his espionage case.

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