China releases Canadian held on spying accusation

Kevin Garratt and his wife Julia were arrested just over two years ago

OTTAWA – A Canadian jailed in China for more than two years and accused of spying has been released and is back in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office confirmed on Thursday.

Kevin Garratt lived in China for about 30 years, conducted Christian aid work and ran a popular coffee shop near China’s border with North Korea.

He and his wife Julia were arrested just over two years ago, although she was released on bail about six months later.

In January, he was indicted on accusations of spying for Canada and stealing Chinese state secrets.

Trudeau’s office issued a brief statement on Thursday expressing “delight” at Garratt’s release, adding the government has been closely following the case.

“The Government of Canada has been seized of this case at the highest levels,” the statement said

During his recent visit to China, Trudeau indicated that he had raised the case during his talks with Chinese leaders.

The Garratt’s son Simeon recently told The Canadian Press he was hopeful that Trudeau’s first official trip to China would somehow move his father’s all-but-stagnant case forward.

The release comes a week before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is to visit Canada for talks with Trudeau. The two countries are exploring the possibility of a free trade deal.

The two leaders are expected to also discuss environmental co-operation, legal and judicial collaboration and cultural exchanges.

Simeon Garratt has steadfastly denied his parents were involved in any sort of espionage. Their detainment came just days after Canada accused the Chinese of spying on federal government agencies.

The couple worked with North Star Aid, whose website said the British Columbia-registered charity seeks to help North Koreans primarily through providing humanitarian aid.

Simeon Garratt has said his parents made no secret of their faith but did not flaunt it in China, where proselytizing is against the law.