Meng Wanzhou case: Huawei executive extradition hearings begin

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Meng Wanzhou's case is being closely monitored

A Canadian court has started hearing the case of a senior Huawei executive who is fighting extradition to the United States.

Meng Wanzhou, 47, made no comment when he arrived at a Vancouver court on Monday for a scheduled hearing.

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The United States wants Meng to be tried on charges, including fraud related to the alleged violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Meng, who was arrested in late 2018 in Canada, denies any wrongdoing.

The case involving Huawei's chief financial officer is being closely watched in Canada, the USA and China.

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His arrest created a gap between China and Canada. On Monday, Beijing repeated its requests to Canada to release Meng.

Meanwhile, the Chinese telecommunications giant said it supported its executive "in his quest for justice and freedom".

In a video statement released on its social media platforms at the beginning of the hearing, Huawei said it trusted Canada's judicial system "which will prove Meng's innocence".

The first phase of hearings is scheduled for January 20-24 at the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver.

The court will hear arguments about whether the crime that Meng is accused by the U.S. would also be considered a crime in Canada.

The judge must be convinced that he meets the so-called "double criminality" test before agreeing to extradition.

His top defense lawyer, Richard Peck, argued in court on Monday that Canada is effectively being asked to "apply US sanctions", according to AFP.

Canada's justice department said it would justify extradition, arguing that the American charges against Meng would have been considered a crime in Canada if they had taken place there.

What is the background?

Meng is the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei.

She has been released on bail but under house arrest in Vancouver, where she owns the property, since she was detained in December 2018.

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Media captionHuawei founder Ren Zhengfei in his daughter's prison

Shortly after his arrest, China detained two Canadian citizens – Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman – and accused the couple of spying.

The Beijing decision is widely seen as "hostage diplomacy" – a tactic to pressure Canada to release the Huawei executive. His detention was called "arbitrary" by Canada and its allies.

Zoe Thomas, BBC Business, Vancouver

Wearing a long polka dot dress, designer high-heeled shoes and an ankle monitoring bracelet, Meng Wanzhou entered the court looking defiant.

She waved to the crowd outside the court when she entered the building. This behavior appears to be part of his legal team's strategy of arguing that this case is about politics, not criminal activity.

During the process, lawyers asked the judge to transfer her from the prisoners' bank to their table, with better access to a translator.

Meanwhile, the Crown Council of Canada has tried to focus on the bank fraud charge and dismiss arguments from political debates over Iran's sanctions and the US-China relationship.

But running away from political issues will be an uphill battle. The case led Canada to a trade dispute between the United States and China.

With a final decision at some point, this political attention is likely to last for the next few months.

Meng's arrest also led to a trade dispute between Canada and China, with China blocking tens of millions of dollars in canola exports.

China says the case is one of US political persecution.

Washington has pressured its allies – including the United Kingdom – not to use Huawei's 5G technology services in critical communications infrastructure, claiming that this could be a security threat.

How does the extradition process work?

If a judge is satisfied with the evidence presented, he or she will authorize the individual to be committed by extradition.

Otherwise, the accused will be exonerated and released from custody.

Even if the judge recommends extradition, it is the federal justice minister who makes the final decision.

A second scheduled hearing, focusing on allegations of abuse of process and whether Canadian authorities followed the law while arresting Meng, is due to be heard in June.

It is highly likely that the overall process can be time-consuming. Meng has possibilities to appeal throughout the process and some cases of extradition have been going on for years.

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