A Canadian man arrested in China two years ago on allegations of spying has been released and has returned to Canada. In August 2014, Kevin Garratt was detained along with his wife Julia by China's state security bureau and the couple were accused of stealing the country's military secrets. Garratt's wife was later released on bail in February 2015.
Prior to their arrest, the couple lived on the North Korea border where they said they conducted Christian aid work for North Koreans and ran a coffee shop in Dandong city. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said in January this year that there is evidence that "implicates Garratt in accepting assignments from Canadian espionage agencies to gather intelligence in China."
His release comes a week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his first official visit to China. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had assured Trudeau at a news conference that Garratt would be treated humanely and his case would be treated as per the Chinese law. This week it was announced that Li will be in Canada next week and meet Trudeau in Ottawa.
The couple's son Simeon Garratt has said that his parents must have been arrested by mistake and at the time termed it as "absurd." They ran a coffee shop and worked with North Star aid, a British-Columbia registered aid agency that claims it seeks to help North Koreans by providing humanitarian aid, the Associated Press reported.
Simeon added that his parents did not keep their faith a secret but did not flaunt it either and said that they worked on getting school supplies, food and cooking oil into North Korea.
A statement from the Garratt family said he was deported on Thursday, 15 September, after a ruling in the case. It read: "The Garratt family thanks everyone for their thoughts and prayers, and also thanks the many individuals who worked to secure Kevin's release."
Trudeau tweeted that he was delighted by Garratt's homecoming. In a statement he said, "We remain deeply impressed by the grace and resilience of the Garratt family, especially Kevin and Julia. The Government of Canada has been seized of this case at the highest levels. We want to thank consular officials who work behind the scenes every day in support of Canadians abroad. We ask all to respect the family's wish for privacy at this time."