The judge’s decision to free Meng comes just hours after the Huawei executive secured a deal to resolve the charges against her in a U.S. court earlier Friday.
In a statement, Canada’s Department of Justice said that there was “no basis” for proceedings to continue after the U.S. extradition request was dropped.
“The judge released Meng Wanzhou from all of her bail conditions. Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada,” read the statement.
Shortly after emerging from court, the Huawei executive also read a statement thanking the judge, crown lawyers and Canadian people.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” said Meng.
“Over the past three years my life has been turned upside down. It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and a company executive. But I believe every cloud has silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life.”
Meng later left on an Air China flight bound for Shenzhen, China — the location of Huawei’s headquarters.
Speaking Friday evening shortly after Meng’s departure, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that both Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were on their way back to Canada after spending over 1,000 days in detention in China.
“These two men have gone through an unbelievably difficult ordeal,” Trudeau said.
“It is good news for all of us that they are on their way home to their families.”
Chinese officials have often moved Meng’s case in lockstep with the cases of both Spavor and Kovrig, though they’ve repeatedly rejected the idea that both cases were linked to Meng’s.
The timeline of the cases makes it “difficult to believe” that China wasn’t moving the Canadians’ cases in tandem with the developments in Meng’s extradition trial, former foreign affairs minister John Manley told Global News in a previous interview.
Spavor and Kovrig, often referred to as the “Two Michaels,” have been detained in China since December 2018. They were thrown in Chinese jail just 10 days after Canada arrested Meng in Vancouver.
In regards to Meng’s plea deal, U.S. prosecutors said all charges against her will be dismissed — if she were to abide by all terms of the deal.
The prosecutors said earlier that they would be informing Canada that the U.S. is withdrawing its extradition request — the very request that led to her arrest in the first place.
As part of the new deferred prosecution agreement, Meng plead not guilty.
“This Deferred Prosecution Agreement will lead to the end of the ongoing extradition proceedings in Canada, which otherwise could have continued for many months, if not years,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division in a statement.
“We are enormously grateful to Canada’s Department of Justice for its dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law.”
In Meng’s initial arrest, Canadian officials were acting on a U.S. warrant that had charged her with fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
Judicial hearings in her extradition case wrapped up in August, with the date for a ruling to be set on Oct. 21.
On March 1, 2019, Canada had approved the extradition order of Meng to the United States. Just two days afterward, China claimed Kovrig had stolen state secrets.
In mid-May of 2019, China arrested the two men over allegations of espionage — a charge Trudeau has repeatedly called “trumped-up” and “arbitrary.” China can only hold detainees up to six months before they must be arrested — and that deadline was almost up.
Then, in late May 2020, a Canadian court ruling dealt a major blow to Meng’s legal team and allowed her case to continue moving forward. Less than a month afterward, China formally indicted Spavor and Kovrig.
“It would be quite a remarkable coincidence…were they were not related,” Manley said.
The saga is a familiar one for Kevin Garratt, a Canadian who was detained in China for almost two years. He was scooped up by Chinese authorities in apparent retaliation for the Canadian arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese resident working in Canada whose extradition had been requested by the Americans.
In Garratt’s case, he finally saw the other side of his prison cell after Su was extradited and opted not to appeal the decision.
China could, theoretically, do “exactly the same thing” with Spavor and Kovrig, Garratt said.
“It’s really up to China, what they want to do. They can make this as short or as long as they want,” he said.
They can bring them to trial immediately. There’s there’s nothing stopping them from doing that for Michael Kovrig. He could go right to trial tomorrow, you know, and be on a plane in a day or two from now.”
Garratt wasn’t alone in the sentiment. The timing of the two Michaels’ return to Canada was “completely up to the top political powers in Beijing,” Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, senior fellow at the University of Ottawa, told Global News in an interview prior to Kovrig’s and Spavor’s release.
Beijing will determine “whether they send them home in the next week, or try to punish Canada further for arresting her in the first place and and or indeed, try to get other concessions out of us,” she said.
“I think the Canadian government and our ambassador in Beijing must insist that they now be released, and certainly the families are going to be hoping for that,”McCuaig-Johnston said.
“This is a major step for the families. If Madam Meng can be sent home, that relieves that important barrier as far as Beijing is concerned.”
But as the dust seems poised to settle over the issue, the ongoing saga regarding Meng’s arrest has damaged the relationship between Canada and China, according Vincent Yang, who is a senior associate with the Vancouver-based International Centre for Criminal Law Reform & Criminal Justice Policy.
“After Ms. Meng’s arrest, and especially after the arrest of our two Michaels, that relationship has completely changed and the damage is permanent, in my opinion. It’s very difficult to repair,” Yang said.
“It’s going to take many decades…to restore the relationship. The trust is gone, basically.”
— With files from Reuters