Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecom giant Huawei whose arrest in Canada on an American warrant sparked a diplomatic battle between Ottawa and Beijing, appeared in court Wednesday to fight for her release.
Canada’s justice department said the court was to set the next key dates in an extradition process – including the start of the formal hearing for Meng, which could take months or even years.
Meng herself had been expected to make only a brief appearance before the judge to deal with matters described by officials as “administrative in nature.”
But defense lawyers took several hours to renew their objections to Meng’s arrest in Vancouver in December while seeking a change to her bail terms that would allow her to move to a larger home in Vancouver for the duration of the trial.
Meanwhile, the prosecution indicated that it wanted to fast-track the proceedings.
But haggling over the disclosure of evidence – with the defense complaining about heavy redactions of 1,742 pages of documents released so far – risked drawing it out.
Relations between Ottawa and Beijing were badly damaged by the arrest of Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei.
Washington wants to put Meng on trial on fraud charges for allegedly violating Iran sanctions and lying about it to US banks, but the case has become a major source of irritation for Ottawa.
Following her arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian businessman Michael Spavor in what observers saw as retaliation.
China later announced it suspected Kovrig of spying and stealing state secrets and alleged that Spavor had provided him with intelligence.
Two other Canadians convicted of drug trafficking, meanwhile, were sentenced to death. And Beijing recently blocked Canadian shipments of canola and pork worth billions of dollars.
Canada has accused Beijing of arbitrarily detaining both Kovrig and Spavor, and called the death penalties for Canadians Fen Wei and Robert Schellenberg “cruel and inhumane.”
It has also rallied the support of a dozen countries, including Britain, France, Germany and the US, as well as the EU, NATO and the G7, in its diplomatic feud with China.
– with reporting by AFP