Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have returned safely to Canada after more than 1,000 days of detention in China.
Granthshala News has confirmed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed two people after landing in Calgary on Saturday morning.
Trudeau announced Friday night that the two men had been released and were on their way back on a plane accompanied by Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China.
“Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor,” the prime minister said on Twitter.
“You have shown incredible strength, resilience and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will be here for you, just as they have been.”
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau, thanked international partners for helping secure his release.
“We are inspired by the courage and resilience shown by him during this long ordeal,” he wrote on Twitter.
Trudeau’s announcement on Friday came hours after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was released from house arrest in Vancouver and allowed to return to China after securing a deal to drop US charges against him.
As part of the new deferred prosecution agreement, Meng pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud by misleading HSBC Bank about the company’s business deals in Iran.
Kovrig, a former diplomat and businessman, was detained in China days after the United States arrested Meng at Vancouver airport in December 2018.
The two men were indicted on espionage charges in separate cases earlier this year. Spavor was later sentenced to 11 years in prison, while the sentence for Kovrig had not yet been issued.
Canada has repeatedly called on China to release the pair, saying they were arbitrarily detained on false charges.
While China has denied that the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor were a retaliation, officials have also suggested that the pair could be arrested if Meng is allowed to return to China and the case against them is withdrawn. can be released.
“These two people have gone through an incredibly difficult test,” Trudeau said during a news conference on Friday.
“It’s good news for all of us that they are going home to their families.”
The news of his release was greeted with a mixture of surprise and relief.
Jaco Zwetslut, Spavor’s longtime friend in Seoul, South Korea, said he did not expect the two men to be freed so quickly after Meng’s release.
“It was beyond my wildest imaginations,” he told Granthshala News. “It was incredible news.”
“I’m glad the process is over and Michael’s exams are over and he’s back in Calgary with his family.”
“The whole thing ended as abruptly as it started”, said Jonathan Dunbar, another friend of Spavor.
Dunbar, who first met Spavor in 2006, said he was curious to know from his friend what he had been doing in China over the past three years.
“I want to know what happened, what they experienced, what was their side to all these experiences,” he told Granthshala News.
– With files from Granthshala News’ Brian Mullan, Jeff Semple, Sean Boynton