Lawyers for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou say they have “serious concerns” that comments by U.S. President Donald Trump indicate the case against their client is driven by politics and it will require time for Canadian courts to address the matter, likely pushing the start of extradition proceedings into the fall.
Richard Peck, one of Ms. Meng’s lawyers, made the comments in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday while outlining next steps in what he called a complex case.
Ms. Meng was arrested at the request of U.S. authorities on Dec. 1 as she was travelling through Vancouver International Airport. The United States is seeking to extradite her to face fraud charges related to alleged attempts to circumvent U.S. sanctions with Iran.
“There are serious concerns of the legal and factual nature that arise, concerns not common in the extradition jurisprudence,” Mr. Peck said.
“There are concerns about political character, political motivation, comments by the U.S. President. There are issues that resound in the context of double criminality. There are issues arising of the treatment of Ms. Meng on her arrival at Vancouver International Airport, her detention and subsequent arrest.”
The principle of double criminality, also called dual criminality, stipulates that a person can only be extradited if the conduct in question constitutes a crime in both countries. Canada didn’t impose sanctions against Iran, so what Huawei is accused of doing wouldn’t have been a crime in Canada.
Mr. Trump said in December that he would “certainly intervene” in the case if it would help secure a trade deal with China – a move that would threaten judicial independence and undermine American law enforcement. He hinted at the option again in February, telling reporters that he “may or may not include” a resolution to the Huawei situation in the deal he was attempting to negotiate with China.
Wednesday’s court date was scheduled to fix a date for Ms. Meng’s extradition hearing, which Canada officially approved on Feb. 28. Both Crown and defence agreed to postpone the matter until May 8 to work on applications that will be brought before the hearing.
Mr. Peck said he anticipates the case to proceed “at a number of stages,” and that he plans to make an abuse-of-process application relating to his client’s detainment by the Canada Border Services Agency at the airport on Dec. 1.
On March 1, Ms. Meng’s lawyers filed a civil claim alleging that members of the CBSA and RCMP breached her constitutional rights. The claim says that CBSA officers conducted an “unlawful interrogation” of Ms. Meng for three hours before she was advised of her rights, as well as an unlawful seizure and search of her electronic devices and luggage.
The allegations in the civil claim have not been tested in court and a statement of defence has not yet been filed.
Gary Botting, a B.C. lawyer with an expertise in extradition and criminal appeals, called the CBSA’s actions, as alleged in the civil claim, “absurd.”
“They take her and interrogate her, search her stuff, ask for her passports and so on. All of this is done by the CBSA, who are acting like Boy Scouts instead of border security. It wasn’t until three hours later that the RCMP finally said, ‘There is a provisional warrant for your arrest,'" Mr. Botting said.
Ms. Meng appeared relaxed during Wednesday’s brief court appearance. She wore a purple zip-up hoodie and black plants; her husband, Liu Xiaozong, watched the proceedings from the back row of a packed courtroom gallery, dressed similarly in a blue sweatshirt and black pants.
The 15-minute appearance drew throngs of international media as well as small protest demonstrations. Members of the group Freedom and Democracy for China, formerly the Vancouver Chinese Human Rights Watch Group, stood outside the courthouse holding photos of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Canadians detained in China days after Ms. Meng’s arrest in what appeared to be a tit-for-tat reprisal.
“These two Canadians in China, they have been arrested, in detention, for more than three months,” said Louis Huang, a co-ordinator with the group. “We don’t know what happened to them, we don’t know where they are. … The Chinese government has a long history of making the story, using humans as hostages to negotiate with foreign countries for political, economic means.”
Surrey resident Yang Kuang, who said he was not affiliated with the group, set alight a flag of China and criticized the Chinese government for detaining Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor by “unreasonable means.”
“Canada didn’t do anything wrong in regard to this matter because it [arrested] her [on] an extradition request from the U.S.,” he said.
Members of the Chinese consulate in Vancouver were also in attendance. Asked by The Globe and Mail how Ms. Meng is doing, China’s deputy consul-general in Vancouver, Wang Chengjun, demurred.
“I can say today’s weather is pretty good,” he said with a smile. “But it’s a little bit cold.”