Michael Kovrig lands at Pearson Airport in Mississauga after 3 year detention in China

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Published September 25, 2021 at 1:05 pm

Michael Kovrig lands at Mississauga

Two Canadians who spent nearly three years detained in Chinese prisons returned safely to Canadian soil on Saturday and were due to be reunited with loved ones who had crusaded for their release.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor landed in Calgary aboard a Canadian Forces plane early Saturday morning and were personally welcomed home by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Global Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, according to a spokesperson from Trudeau’s office. Video footage from CTV shows Trudeau greeting some of the plane’s passengers home with hugs on the tarmac.

The flight carrying Spavor and Kovrig, who have become known internationally as “The Two Michaels,” departed for Canada late Friday just as Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou made her way back to China after resolving a legal saga that mired them all in a geopolitical melee.

After arriving in Calgary, Kovrig took a flight to Ontario and landed at Pearson Airport in Mississauga earlier today, then headed home to Toronto.

Kovrig was greeted by his wife and sister on the airport tarmac at Pearson Airport.

He said a couple of words to the media saying that he was so happy to be back home.

The case connecting the three detained citizens’ fates came to an abrupt conclusion when Meng, the chief financial officer at Huawei Technologies and the daughter of the telecom’s founder, reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors over fraud and conspiracy charges related to American sanctions against Iran.

In a virtual appearance in a New York courtroom, Meng pleaded not guilty on all charges as the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement that would see the indictment against her dismissed after Dec. 1, 2022 — four years from the date of her arrest — provided that she complied with all her obligations under the terms of the deal.

Soon after, Meng walked out of a British Columbia Supreme Court after a judge agreed to a discharge order that withdrew a U.S. extradition request that led to her 2018 arrest in Vancouver.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested in China on espionage charges just days later in apparent retaliation. China has publicly maintained that there is no connection between her case and men’s imprisonment, but had also dropped broad hints that if she were allowed to go free, that could benefit the two Canadians.

The flight carrying Kovrig and Spavor departed China at nearly the same time as Meng was flying back to her home country from Vancouver.

While Meng was kept under house arrest at a mansion in that city, the Canadians faced much harsher conditions in Chinese prisons where their access to the outside world was extremely limited.

Trudeau alluded to those conditions at a Friday news conference where  he announced their release from China and imminent return home.

“These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal,” Trudeau said.

“For the past 1,000 days they have shown strength, perseverance, resilience and grace and we are all inspired by that.”

Earlier this year, Kovrig and Spavor were both convicted of spying in closed Chinese courts — a process that Canada and dozens of allies said amounts to arbitrary detention on bogus charges in a closed system of justice with no accountability.

Spavor received an 11-year sentence, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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