By Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Canadian prosecutors told a court on Thursday that a judge was not best-placed to decide whether national security and geopolitical concerns can be used to strike down the request by the United States to extradite Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.
Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. She has said she is innocent and is fighting her extradition case from under house arrest in Vancouver.
Prosecutors argued on Thursday that if Meng has become a bargaining chip in a trade war between the United States and China, as her lawyers have claimed, then Canada’s minister of justice is the right person to decide that, not a judge.
Canada’s extradition process dictates that a judge will first decide whether an extradition claim is legal, before the country’s justice minister makes a final decision on whether to extradite that person.
Meng’s lawyers have asked for her case to be thrown out, arguing that she had become a bargaining chip in a trade war between China and the United States. They pointed to statements made by former U.S. president Donald Trump in December 2018, when he said he would intervene in the case if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.
Canadian prosecutor Robert Frater said a British Columbia Supreme Court judge would not be able to determine whether Huawei was indeed a national security threat to the United States, as defence lawyer Robert Peck suggested on Wednesday.
“Peck can’t prove that’s false, I can’t prove that’s true,” Frater said. “The only thing you can do is presume good faith.
On Wednesday, Frater called Trump’s comments “vague” and listed statements by other relevant actors in U.S. government who spoke against interference.
“Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it,” Frater said, adding that the defence tried to bring the elephant into court.
He urged the judge to focus on facts and law, and ‘leave the politics to the politicians.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing broke down in the wake of Meng’s arrest. Days later, China detained two Canadians on espionage charges, which Canada viewed as retaliation.
Meng’s case is expected to finish hearings in May.
(Reporting by Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)