Arrests of Canadians in China unacceptable, says US ambassador

Supporters hold a sign of support for Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer prior to her bail hearing at a Vancouver, British Columbia courthouse on Dec. 10, 2018. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Updated 10 February 2019
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Arrests of Canadians in China unacceptable, says US ambassador

  • China detained the two Canadians on Dec. 10 after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou
  • Washington requested Meng's extradition to the US to face fraud charges
TORONTO: The US ambassador to Canada said Saturday her country is “deeply concerned” about China’s “unlawful” detention of two Canadians.
Ambassador Kelly Craft said in a statement to The Associated Press the arrests of ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor are “unacceptable” and urged China to end the arbitrary detentions. It is her first public comments on the cases.
China detained the two Canadians on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of US authorities.
Meng is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder.
The US wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
Craft said the US Department of Justice’s criminal case against Meng is based solely on the evidence and the law.
“The United States appreciates Canada’s steadfast commitment to the rule of law,” she said.
Craft made no mention of China’s planned execution of a third Canadian. China re-sentenced a convicted Canadian drug smuggler to death after the Meng arrest as part of an apparent campaign of intimidation and retribution against Canada.
Some analysts have said the US response to China’s arrests of the two Canadians has been muted. President Donald Trump himself has not commented on the Canadians. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has, saying China ought to release them. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders and the State Department have also issued statements of support.
“We urge China to end all forms of arbitrary and unlawful detentions and to respect the protections and freedoms of all individuals in accordance with China’s international commitments,” Craft said.
Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto, called Craft’s statement “tepid.”
“It doesn’t bespeak ringing support,” Bothwell said.
Beijing threatened grave consequences for America’s neighbor and ally after Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport.
Canada has embarked on a campaign with allies to win the release of Kovrig and Spavor and many countries have issued statements in support.
The two were detained on vague allegations of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. They remain locked up without access to lawyers.
Meng is out on bail in Canada and living in one of her two Vancouver mansions awaiting extradition proceedings.
Despite the escalating frictions resulting from the detentions, trade talks between Beijing and the Trump administration remain ongoing.
The US has taken pains to emphasize that their trade talks are entirely separate from the US case against Meng. They have been doing so since Trump said in an interview that he might be willing to drop the charges against Meng as part of a trade deal with China.
Trump’s comment frustrated Canadian officials who have been adamant Canada is following the rule of law and that Canada has an extradition treaty it must respect. A Canadian judge could deny the extradition request if it the charges are deemed political.
“The next time the US asks Canada will be hard of hearing,” Bothwell said. “Trouble with Trump and company is that they are entirely transactional. They don’t think ahead. And in this case Trump’s own words will probably be enough to get the US extradition request denied.”


Scans on US diplomats in Cuba show ‘something happened to the brains’

Dr. Mitchell Valdes-Sosa, General Director of the Cuban Neuroscience Center, speaks during a press conference in Havana, Cuba, on July 23, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 10 sec ago
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Scans on US diplomats in Cuba show ‘something happened to the brains’

  • Tablada urged the White House to stop using the issue “as a pretext to impose increasingly aggressive new sanctions” against the Cuban people

WASHINGTON: Brain scans of about 40 US diplomats injured in mysterious circumstances in Cuba reveal visible differences compared to those in a control group, researchers who analyzed them said Tuesday.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and led by professors at the University of Pennsylvania, does not draw any conclusions about the cause of the symptoms suffered by the diplomats from late 2016 into May 2018.
But the MRIs of the patients confirm that “something happened to the brains of these people,” Ragini Verma, a professor of radiology at UPenn and co-author of the study, told AFP.
“It’s not imagined,” she said. “All I can say is that there is a truth to be found.”
Verma added: “Whatever happened was not due to a pre-existing condition, because we test for that.”
From late 2016, diplomats posted in Havana and some of their family members suffered unexplained symptoms ranging from poor balance and vertigo to lack of coordination, unusual eye movements, anxiety and what victims called a “cognitive fog.”
The United States recalled most of its diplomatic personnel from the Cuban capital in September 2017.
Some of them have recovered and returned to work, but others are still undergoing rehab, according to Verma.
The US government never publicly explained the cause of the mysterious illnesses. It neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of attacks using some sort of acoustic weapon, as some US media reported, without offering proof.
Cuba has denied all responsibility for the incidents, which also affected at least 14 Canadian citizens. Ottawa also ended up recalling most of its diplomats from Havana in January.
At the request of the State Department, 44 diplomats and family members were sent from mid-2017 to UPenn’s brain trauma center to undergo MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exams.
Researchers compared those results with scans from 48 comparable subjects in two control groups. The differences are statistically significant and relate to the brain’s white matter as well as the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement.
A State Department spokesman welcomed “the medical community’s discussion on this incredibly complex issue. The Department’s top priority remains the safety, security, and well-being of its staff.”
Verma said it was vital to follow the diplomats and their families over time “to see whether these changes evolve or change.”

Responding to the report, Havana again denied all responsibility in the affair.
The study by the UPenn professors “does not allow clear and final scientific conclusions to be reached,” said Mitchell Valdes-Sosa, head of the Neuroscience Center of Cuba.
Valdes-Sosa told reporters that the study “does not show, contrary to what has been speculated... that the group of diplomats suffered brain damage during their stay in Cuba.”
A senior foreign ministry official in charge of US affairs, Johana Tablada, said that as of now “no evidence exists of any type of attack” against the US diplomats, and called on Washington to stop using that term in such an “irresponsible” way.
Tablada urged the White House to stop using the issue “as a pretext to impose increasingly aggressive new sanctions” against the Cuban people.