VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Canadian prosecutors told a court on Thursday that it was not the judge’s role to decide whether national security and geopolitical concerns could be used to nullify a U.S. request to extradite Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou.
Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 on the basis of a US arrest warrant for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions.
She said she is innocent and is fighting her extradition case from the Vancouver house arrest.
Prosecutors argued Thursday that if Meng becomes a bargaining chip in a trade war between the United States and China, her attorneys say, then Canada’s justice minister is the right person to decide, not the judge.
The extradition process in Canada dictates that the judge first decide whether the extradition claim is legal, before the Canadian Minister of Justice makes a final decision on that person’s extradition.
Lawyers for Huawei’s chief financial officer demanded that her case be dropped.
They refer to remarks made by former US President Donald Trump in December 2018, when he said he would intervene in the case if it would serve national security interests or help seal a trade deal with China.
Canadian attorney Robert Frater said a British Columbia Supreme Court judge will not be able to determine whether Huawei really poses a threat to the national security of the United States, as suggested by defense attorney Richard Beck on Wednesday.
“Beck cannot prove that this is wrong, I cannot prove that it is true,” Frater said. “The only thing you can do is assume goodwill.”
Frater earlier described Trump’s comments as “vague” and included statements by other US officials who had spoken out against the intervention.
“Everyone in this room knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds revolving around it,” Frater said on Thursday, adding that the defense had tried to refer the elephant to court.
He urged the judge to focus on facts and law and “leave politics to the politicians.”
Defense attorney Eric Gottardi acknowledged that Trump may have been vague about the method and timing of his alleged threat, but said the president was not vague about his intent to intervene.
Gottardi said that the more appropriate comments made by other US officials were not as influential as they were all of the president.
“He has the greatest power,” said Gottardi.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing broke down following Meng’s arrest. Days later, China detained two Canadians on espionage charges, which Canada took as revenge.
The hearings were expected to last five days this week, but the two sides completed their arguments early. Meng will return to court on March 15. Her case is due to expire in May.