(Reuters) - The wife of a Canadian arrested in Beijing after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver asked on Tuesday that the Canadian justice minister consider intervening in the Chinese executive’s extradition case and releasing her.
Michael Kovrig, 48, who was arrested by Chinese authorities in December 2018, was formally charged last week with espionage. His arrest, like that of Canadian businessman Michael Spavor around the same time, is widely believed to be in retaliation for Meng’s arrest on U.S. fraud charges.
Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, who lives in Toronto, has been fighting for his release since his arrest but went public this week for the first time.
“The situation keeps getting more and more dire for Michael,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “He is completely cut off and isolated. We believe this is the moment to consider all options. We are running out of time.”
Nadjibulla said legal experts had determined the Canadian justice minister had the authority to stop the extradition process at any point if it was in the national interest, not only once the court proceedings have concluded.
“Options that will terminate the extradition process are within the rule of law,” Nadjibulla said. “And that could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Michaels.”
The Canadian Justice Department said it recognized the toll the “arbitrary detentions” continued to take on Kovrig, Spavor and their families.
But as a matter of policy, the minister’s authority has been delegated until the judge rules on the extradition, a spokesman said. The minister must then decide whether to order the subject’s surrender or discharge.
Kovrig spent months in solitary confinement after his arrest. He now has cellmates but still cannot go outside.
The family spoke with him once by phone on March 12. They last received a letter from him about a month later.
Kovrig went to China in 2013 as a diplomat, but was working as an adviser for the International Crisis Group when he was detained. Nadjibulla left China in 2017 when the couple separated, but she has been leading efforts to obtain his release.
“Michael has done nothing wrong,” she said.
Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Peter Cooney