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Myanmar military sentences 19 to death, says anti-coup protests dwindling

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(Reuters) – Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing an associate of an army captain, the military owned Myawaddy TV station said on Friday, the first such sentences announced in public since a Feb. 1 coup and crackdown on protesters.

The report said the killing took place on March 27 in the North Okkalapa district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Martial law has been declared in the district, allowing courts martial to pronounce sentences.

The military rulers who overthrew an elected government said on Friday that a protest campaign against its rule was dwindling because people wanted peace, and that it would hold elections within two years, the first timeframe it has given for a return to democracy.

Troops fired rifle grenades at anti-coup protesters on Friday in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and news reports said. At least 10 people were killed and their bodies piled up inside a pagoda, they said.

Myanmar Now news and Mawkun, an online news magazine, said at least 20 people were killed and many wounded. It was not possible to get a precise toll because troops had cordoned off the area near the pagoda, they said.

Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the country was returning to normal and government ministries and banks would resume full operations soon.

More than 600 people have been killed by security forces cracking down on protests against the coup, according to an activist group. The country has ground to a standstill because of the protests and widespread strikes against military rule.

“The reason of reducing protests is due to cooperation of people who want peace, which we value,” Zaw Min Tun said. “We request people to cooperate with security forces and help them.”

He said the military had recorded 248 deaths and he denied that automatic weapons had been used. Sixteen policemen had also been killed, he said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group has said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the coup, as of Thursday evening. More than 2,800 were in detention, it said.

“We are humbled by their courage and dignity,” a group of 18 ambassadors in Myanmar said of the protesters in a joint statement.

“We stand together to support the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe in a free, just, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Violence has to stop, all political detainees must be released and democracy must be restored.”

The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, Britain, the EU, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and several other European nations.

“The suggestions from neighbouring countries and big countries and powerful people in politics, we respect them,” Zaw Min Tun said. He also accused members of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy of arson and said the protest campaign was being financed by foreign money, but gave no details.

Suu Kyi and many of her party colleagues have been in custody since the coup.

Zaw Min Tun said reports that some members of the international community did not recognise the military government were “fake news”.

“We are cooperating with foreign countries and working together with neighbouring countries,” the spokesman said.

Ousted Myanmar lawmakers urged the United Nations Security Council on Friday to take action against the military.

“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers. She urged Council members to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.

“Myanmar stands at the brink of state failure, of state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior adviser on Myanmar with the International Crisis Group, told the informal U.N. meeting, the first public discussion of Myanmar by council members.

The U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, had wanted to visit the country but said she has been rebuffed by the generals.

She said on Friday she had arrived in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand.

“I regret that Tatmadaw answered me yesterday that they are not ready to receive me,” Schraner Burgener said on Twitter, referring to the Myanmar military. “I am ready for dialogue. Violence never leads to peaceful sustainable solutions.”

 

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Grant McCool; Editing by Nick Macfie and Daniel Wallis)

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Ontario reports 653 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday – CBC.ca

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Ontario reported another 653 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. The majority of the new cases, 499, have occurred in individuals who have either not been fully vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unclear.

Here are some other key pandemic indicators and figures from the Ministry of Health’s daily provincial update:

Tests completed: 31,063

Provincewide test positivity rate: two per cent

Active cases: 5,591

Patients in ICU with COVID-related illnesses: 177; 127 needed a ventilator to breathe

Deaths: Six, pushing the official toll to 9,704

Vaccinations: 21,651,850 doses have been administered to date. Nearly 86 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 or older have now received a first dose, while slightly more than 80 per cent have received two doses.

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The 2 Michaels are home. But what about the 115 Canadians still detained in China? – Global News

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All eyes were on Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on Saturday as the two returned home following nearly three years spent in apparent arbitrary detention in China.

Heartwarming images and video surfaced of the two reuniting with their families. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday called their homecoming “good news for all of us,” noting that they had both gone through an “unbelievably difficult ordeal.”

But as of Sunday at least 115 Canadians remain in custody in Chinese prisons, Global Affairs Canada said in an emailed statement to Global News. Not all Canadians imprisoned in China are in arbitrary detainment, but the agency said at least four of those jailed are on death row.

Read more:
‘Two Michaels’ welcomed home by friends, family after years in Chinese detention

“Canada opposes the death penalty in all cases, everywhere,” Global Affairs Canada said.

“We have raised our firm opposition to the death penalty with China and continue to call on China to grant clemency for all Canadians sentenced to death.”


Click to play video: '“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home'



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“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home


“Two Michaels” and Meng Wanzhou return home

The agency said it reviews each detention on a case-by-case basis, as consular officials often require a “tailored approach” that can adapt to different local contexts and circumstances.

Here’s a look at the four Canadians currently on death row.


Click to play video: 'Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison'



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Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison


Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor arrive in Canada after almost 3 years in Chinese prison

Robert Schellenberg

Of those sentenced to death, the most recent is Canadian Robert Schellenberg of Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Liaoning High Court upheld his death sentence on Aug. 10 following an appeal made over the summer.

Schellenberg was detained on drug charges in China in 2014 and was formally charged with drug smuggling in January 2015. Initially, a Chinese court had sentenced him to 15 years in prison. But four years later, his verdict was overturned following a retrial and he was sentenced to death.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in August that Canada “strongly” condemned the court’s decision to uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.

Read more:
Chinese court upholds death sentence for Robert Schellenberg in drug smuggling case

“We have repeatedly expressed to China our firm opposition to this cruel and inhumane punishment and will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to grant clemency to Mr. Schellenberg,” he said, shortly after the ruling was delivered.

“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, and condemn the arbitrary nature of Mr. Schellenberg’s sentence.”

In an emailed statement to Global News, Global Affairs Canada reiterated that the federal government remains “strongly opposed” to the decision to arbitrarily impose and uphold the death penalty for Schellenberg.

The agency added it “will continue to engage with Chinese officials at the highest levels to seek clemency for Mr. Schellenberg.”


Click to play video: 'Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man'



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Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man


Chinese court upholds death sentence against B.C. man – Aug 10, 2021

Xu Weihong

Canadian Xu Weihong was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate Court over drug manufacturing charges on Aug. 6, 2020. They also handed down a life sentence to Wen Guanxiong, whom they claim helped Xu make ketamine.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin justified Xu’s death sentence during a briefing last year, saying that death penalties would help “deter and prevent” similar crimes in the future.

“I would like to stress that China’s judicial authorities handle the relevant case independently in strict accordance with Chinese law and legal procedures,” Wang had said.

He added that “this case should not inflict any impact on China-Canada relations.”


Click to play video: 'China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs'



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China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs


China defends death sentence for Canadian convicted of making illegal drugs – Aug 6, 2020

Ye Jianhui

Ye Jianhui is the fourth Canadian to receive the death penalty in China.

His sentence was handed down in August of last year over charges to manufacture and transport drugs by the Foshan Municipal Intermediate Court, just one day after Xu’s.

Ye and co-defendant Lu Hanchang conspired with others to manufacture and transport drugs between May 2015 and January 2016, the Associated Press reported last year.

Asked last year if the sentencing of the Canadian drug offenders was linked to Meng’s case, Wang said China’s judicial organs “handle cases independently,” while also adding that “the Canadian side knows the root cause” of difficulties in China-Canadian relations.

Read more:
China sentences another Canadian to death over drug charges

Fan Wei

Fan Wei was given the death penalty on April 30, 2019 along with 11 others over his involvement in an international methamphetamine operation.

Speaking to Global News the day of his sentencing, Global Affairs Canada said officials attended the sentencing and reading of the verdict. They called on China to grant clemency, adding the decision to apply the “cruel and inhumane” death penalty to Fan’s case was of “extreme concern” to their government.

“Obtaining clemency for Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei is also of primary importance given China’s decision to impose the death penalty in these cases,” Global Affairs Canada said, in an emailed statement to Global News on Sunday.

“Canada will continue to provide consular services to Robert Schellenberg, Xu Weihong, Ye Jianhui and Fan Wei, as well as to their families.”

— With files from Global News’ Saba Aziz and Aaron D’Andrea, as well as the Canadian Press, Associated Press and Reuters.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have finally landed in Canada – CTV News

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Two Canadians who’ve been imprisoned in China for more than 1,000 days have arrived safely in Canada.

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, detained on espionage charges since Dec. 10, 2018, arrived at the Calgary International Airport early Saturday morning, following an overnight fuel stop in Alaska.

Footage from CTV News on the tarmac shows several passengers greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a hug, though everyone in the footage is wearing a mask.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office told CTV News’ Bill Fortier at the airport that the passengers are indeed the two Michaels. The spokesperson added that it is very emotional moment for both of them and they would not be taking questions.

Later in the day, a smiling Kovrig landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, where he was met by his sister and wife. Kovrig briefly spoke to media, where he issued his thanks for the support and said he would have more to say in due time.

“It’s wonderfully fantastic to be back home in Canada,” he told reporters. “I’m so grateful for everybody who worked so hard to bring both of us back home.”

Trudeau announced the two would be returning to Canada in a late-night press conference on Friday, only once the two had left Chinese airspace.

“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet on Saturday. “You’ve shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been.”

News of their release has garnered celebration from across Canada, including ​from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, as well as from people who knew the two Canadians.

“It’s hard to describe but I’m just so thrilled for him and his family more than anybody else,” Praveen Madhiraju, a colleague of Kovrig’s, told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “This has been a long time coming and we’re just thrilled for this next chapter.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the two Michaels showed “incredible strength” during their detention.

“Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are now home — they, as well as their families, have shown incredible strength, bravery and resilience,” she tweeted on Saturday. “The Canadian government has worked hard to secure their release. We thank everyone involved who helped make it possible.”

The Michaels arrived in Canada just one day after a British Columbia court dropped the extradition case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.

Meng had earlier Friday pleaded not guilty to all charges in a virtual appearance in New York court, where the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.

The two Michaels were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts earlier this year. Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in Chinese prison, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.

The detainment of the two Canadians has largely been seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest, though China has repeatedly denied any connection between the Michaels and Meng.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, told CTV News Channel on Saturday that the swift release of the two Michaels shows that their detainment was in fact retaliatory.

“Obviously this is the acknowledgment that this was really a retaliatory hostage taking for Meng Wanzhou,”

“I think (this is) a triumph for quiet diplomacy, because this was kept very much to wraps. Nobody knew what was going on. I was as surprised as the rest of Canada.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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