Canada warns U.S. not to politicize extradition cases

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday warned the United States not to politicize extradition cases, a day after President Donald Trump said he could intervene in the affair of a Chinese executive detained in Canada at Washington’s request.

Freeland also told reporters that a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China. Authorities in China are already holding former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was detained on Monday.

China has strongly protested the arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1 of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. Meng has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. She has said she is innocent.

Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he would intervene here in the U.S. Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.

But the legal process should not be hijacked for political purposes, Freeland said.

“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice and following the rule of law,” Freeland said when asked about Trump’s comments.

Others also questioned whether Trump might be misusing the extradition request.

“This is a legal issue and one that appears properly executed but your comments can only diminish an important extradition agreement we have with our next door neighbor,” said Bruce Heyman, an ex-U.S. ambassador to Canada who was appointed by President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.

Meng was released on bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday.

The United States has not yet made a formal extradition petition. Once it does, if a Canadian judge rules in favor of the request, Canada’s justice minister must decide whether to extradite Meng to the United States.

Freeland expressed deep concern over the Kovrig case and said a second unnamed Canadian had made contact with Canadian authorities to say Chinese officials were asking him questions. Canada has not been able to make contact with him since, she added.

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Officials said earlier they have no indication from Beijing that Kovrig’s detention was tied to Canada’s arrest of Meng.

But they have seen an uptick in anti-Canadian sentiment online and in China, an official said, and have communicated concerns about diplomatic staff safety to the Chinese government, which beefed up security in response.

“We have in general informed our personnel in Beijing and in our consulates to take extra precautions,” an official said.

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