In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Marc Garneau said the Canadian Embassy in Beijing has been notified that the court hearings for Spavor and Kovrig are scheduled to take place on March 19 and March 22, respectively.
Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China in 2018 on espionage charges, shortly after Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou was detained by authorities in British Columbia on an extradition charge from the United States.
Canadian officials have repeatedly called for their release, calling their detention arbitrary.
Garneau said the detention of the two men is “a top priority for the Government of Canada.”
“And we continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release,” he said.
China says it ‘fully’ safeguards rights of ‘2 Michaels’ after report that trial will come soon
“We believe these detentions are arbitrary, and remain deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding these proceedings,” he said.
According to Garneau, Canadian officials are seeking “continued consular access” to the men, and have also requested to attend the court proceedings.
“Canadian officials will continue to provide consular support to these men and their families during this unacceptable ordeal,” the statement read. “Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.”
Several of Canada’s closest allies have pledged their support and have called on China to release the men.
Last month, U.S. president Joe Biden said the U.S. would work with Canada to secure their safe release, saying “human beings are not bartering chips.”
Biden made the comments after his first bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Canada and the United States will stand together against abuse of universal rights and democratic freedom,” he said.
Biden calls on China to release Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor
Speaking at a press conference earlier this month, Trudeau reiterated that the charges against Spavor and Kovrig are retaliatory in nature.
“It is obvious that the two Michaels were arrested on trumped-up national security charges days after we fulfilled our extradition treaty responsibilities towards our ally, the United States,” he said.
-With a file from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore
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