AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The arrest of a Chinese tech leader in Canada back in December set off an international dispute. Meng Wanzhou is chief financial officer of Huawei, one of the world's largest cellphone manufacturers and tech companies. The U.S. had asked Canada to arrest her on charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Well, today Meng appeared in a Canadian court for an extradition hearing.
NPR's Jackie Northam was in the courtroom. She joins us on the line from Vancouver. And, Jackie, this was a highly anticipated court hearing. Can you tell us what happened?
JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Yes. It was actually a very short hearing. And it was really just to lay out more of the groundwork for the extradition process. Meng Wanzhou showed up wearing yoga pants and a purple hoodie. She looked very relaxed as she sat in the prisoner's dock. She was with her team of lawyers, an interpreter and security detail which she's required to have around the clock as part of her bail condition. There was a Canadian prosecutor there representing the U.S. Department of Justice, which alleges that Meng defrauded American banks as a way to skirt sanctions on Iran. And that's why the U.S. asked Canada to arrest her while she was transiting through Vancouver.
CORNISH: What did Meng's lawyers actually have to say in her defense?
NORTHAM: Well, Meng's lead counsel said there were some serious concerns about her case, and that includes the way Meng was treated by Canadian police and border patrol when she was arrested in early December. And Meng has launched a lawsuit against Canada, saying her constitutional rights were violated. But her lawyer also said that Meng's arrest and possible extradition were politically motivated. And this is something the Chinese government keeps saying - that the U.S. is using Meng as a pawn in its trade dispute with China.
CORNISH: So is it something that is tied up in this kind of ongoing U.S.-China trade discussion?
NORTHAM: Well, certainly Meng's defense lawyer hinted at that. He said - he mentioned comments made by President Trump when he said that he would consider intervening in Meng's case if it could help secure a trade deal with China. And those hard-fought trade negotiations appear to be in the final stages now. But you know, this case is happening in Canada, and the Canadian government has pushed back on Trump's comments about intervening, saying over and over again that Canada is a country of law and order and that there will be no political invention in Meng's case.
CORNISH: And yet Canada is facing political repercussions - right? - because of its role here.
NORTHAM: Oh, it certainly is, yes. You know, Canada has to honor the extradition treaty that it has with the U.S., so it will go through with Meng's extradition case. But there's a sense here that the country is paying a price. Shortly after Meng was detained in Vancouver, China arrested two Canadian citizens - Michael Spavor, who's an entrepreneur working in China, and Michael Kovrig, who was a former diplomat. And their arrests were widely viewed as an attempt by China to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou.
It took a much more serious turn late last week when China charged both men with espionage. And you know, Audie, there's a lot of anger here in Canada that these two men are in prison in China, facing hours of interrogation while Meng Wanzhou is under house arrest here in Vancouver in one of her two multimillion-dollar homes.
CORNISH: What happens now in her case?
NORTHAM: Well, her next court appearance will be May 8, and those extradition proceedings can be very, very slow. You know, this could take months or even years before a judge decides whether Meng will be sent to the U.S. to be tried in an American court.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Jackie Northam speaking to us from Vancouver. Jackie, thank you.
NORTHAM: Thank you, Audie.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.