A Chinese court sentenced Canadian Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison on Wednesday for espionage. Spavor, a businessman and former diplomat, was accused of espionage in June 2019 along with his compatriot Michael Kovrig. It is not yet known when a verdict will be handed down against Kovrig.

Spavor and Kovrig were arrested in 2018, shortly after Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, the financial director of Chinese tech giant Huawei. The United States had issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest.

China continues to insist that the arrests of the Canadians had nothing to do with the arrest of Meng, who remains in Vancouver while she legally challenges her extradition to the US. However, observers expect that the likely convictions of both Spavor and Kovrig could ultimately facilitate an agreement, allowing them to be released and returned to Canada – in exchange for Meng’s release.

Since Meng’s arrest, Chinese courts have sentenced three Canadians to death for drug trafficking. One of these, Robert Schellenberg, was told on Tuesday that the death sentence previously handed down against him will be maintained.