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Canada's ambassador to China says Huawei's CFO has a strong case to avoid extradition

Last Updated Jan 23, 2019 at 8:27 pm PST

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Canada’s ambassador to China has made some surprising comments about the extradition case at the centre of the diplomatic dispute between Ottawa and Beijing, saying the defence has a strong case.

He thinks the Huawei executive, who was arrested in December at YVR Airport, has a strong case.

In a news conference with Chinese language media in Canada, Ambassador John McCallum said he believes Meng Wanzhou does have strong legal arguments to avoid extradition to the United States.

RELATED: U.S. confirms it will ask Canada to extradite Huawei executive; China protests

He says the defence could look at political interference comments by U.S. President Donald Trump and the fact Canada didn’t sign on to Iran sanctions, which are central to the charges she faces.

“I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge,” McCallum said. “Political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case (and) there’s an extraterritorial aspect.”

He says the final call is for a judge and there will be no political interference.

McCallum’s comments go much further than other Canadian officials’ on the case. The Trudeau government has avoided talk like this, saying it respects the rule of law.

The comments are also unusual, since the U.S. has said it plans to follow through with the extradition process.

Trudeau was later asked about McCallum’s comments.

He said Canada is a country of the rule of law and his government will make sure that is properly and fully followed. He added that means Meng has a right to put together a strong defence.

However, the prime minister would not specify whether he agrees with McCallum that Meng does, in fact, have a strong legal argument to avoid extradition.

McCallum also raised the possibility that the U.S. could strike a deal with China to drop the extradition. If that happens, he hopes the deal includes the release of two detained Canadians.

Meanwhile Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says if he was Prime Minister, he would fire the ambassador as the Tories question whether the comments by McCallum could amount to political interference.