After nearly three years locked away in a Chinese prison, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are back on Canadian soil.
A Canadian Air Forces passenger plane carrying the two Michaels landed in Calgary early Saturday morning, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
They were greeted on the tarmac by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Prime Minister told a news conference Friday evening that the two men, who have become known around the world as the “two Michaels,” were on a plane that left China, accompanied by Canada’s ambassador.
Earlier tonight, the aircraft carrying Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor left Chinese airspace. After an unbelievably difficult ordeal, they are on their way home. I want to thank every single person and partner around the world who helped secure their release.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 25, 2021
“We have worked tirelessly for the past two and a half years to get them home,” he said.
The release of Spavor and Kovrig was announced hours after the British Columbia Supreme Court agreed to a discharge order that withdrew a U.S. extradition request against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
The telecom boss was detained in Vancouver in 2018 at the request of the Americans, where a grand jury had indicted the company and Meng on 13-counts of misrepresenting their ownership of Hong Kong-based subsidiary Skycom between 2007 and 2017 in order to navigate around American sanctions on Iran.
Meng left house arrest in Vancouver and is expected to arrive in China on Saturday.
After leaving the court, Meng issued a statement on Friday in which she thanked the judge, the Crown lawyers and the Canadian people for their tolerance.
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” she said.
Her discharge followed a virtual appearance in a New York courtroom where she pleaded not guilty to all charges and the judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.
Even though Beijing has insisted the two cases were not linked, the Trudeau government accused China of engaging in “hostage diplomacy.” China had repeatedly dropped hints that if Meng were allowed to go free, that could benefit the two Canadians.
Both Spavor and Kovrig were put on trial in March of this year and convicted of spying. Canada and many of its allies said the charges were bogus in a closed system of justice with no accountability.
Spavor was given an 11-year prison term, while Kovrig had yet to be sentenced.
Kovrig is a Canadian diplomat and was on leave to the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental agency focused on peace-building. He had worked to forge closer relations with North Korea.