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Kevin Garratt returned home last month following a massive government effort to free him. (Jack Chen For The Globe and Mail)
Kevin Garratt returned home last month following a massive government effort to free him. (Jack Chen For The Globe and Mail)

Kevin Garratt makes first public appearance after release from Chinese prison Add to ...

Kevin Garratt, the Canadian missionary held for two years in China on suspicion of spying, spoke publicly for the first time Thursday since his high-profile release, detailing the brutal prison conditions he and his wife dealt with during their ordeal.

Reading from a hand-written statement in the House of Commons foyer, Mr. Garratt said the “horrendous” 775-day ordeal for him, his wife and their family passed by in long minutes. Mr. Garratt and his wife, Julia, were initially detained in August of 2014, after living and working as missionaries in China for 30 years.

“Julia and I were suddenly taken to a remote compound and held in isolation separately for six months, unjustly interrogated as suspects, accused of espionage and stealing state secrets,” said Mr. Garratt, with his wife by his side.

Read more: Kevin Garratt’s release offers Canada a lesson in hard Chinese bargaining

Read more: Garratt’s release a win for Canada – and China

Read more: Trudeau urged China's top leaders to free Kevin Garratt, source says

After spending six months confined to one room with the lights on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Ms. Garratt was released on bail in February, 2015 without identification and multiple communications restrictions. Mr. Garratt’s situation worsened.

“I was criminally arrested and transferred to a small prison cell with up to 14 other prisoners. Cot to cot, we were right beside each other … with 24/7 fluorescent lights on,” said Mr. Garratt.

Mr. Garratt said his only contact with the outside world during his two years in prison was a 30-minute supervised, monthly visit with a consular worker. His wife experienced the same restrictions during her time in prison.

He was suddenly released last month after a massive effort by the Canadian government, its embassy in Beijing and two prime ministers. Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Michel Coulombe became involved, as well. According to sources, Mr. Coulombe met with Minister of State Security Geng Huichang to explain that Mr. Garratt, a Pentecostal pastor, did not work for CSIS.

Mr. Garratt’s release came one day after Ottawa agreed to bilateral extradition-treaty talks with China, a long-time demand of the Asian giant. Despite the timing, the government insists Canada made no concessions for Mr. Garratt’s return.

The Garratt family was in Ottawa Thursday to thank the government for the pair’s release. The family also met with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion to express their gratitude.

“Prime Minister Trudeau, former prime minister Harper and their teams, family, friends and communities in Canada and worldwide persevered in prayer, and quiet, but strategic action, never stopped until we were on home soil. We are so, so grateful,” Mr. Garratt said.

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