China deports Kevin Garratt after 2 years in prison
Published Thursday, September 15, 2016 4:46PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 15, 2016 8:47PM EDT
Canadian Kevin Garratt has been deported from China and re-united with his family after being held for more than two years on charges of espionage.
Garratt returned to Canada Thursday, after a court ruling in Dandong, China two days earlier, according to a statement from his family.
“The Garratt family thanks everyone for their thoughts and prayers, and also thanks the many individuals who worked to secure Kevin's release,” they said.
A family member told CTV News that “Kevin needs a chance to let his well-deserved and long awaited his freedom sink in.”
“When they are ready to tell it, there is a long and interesting story to tell,” the family member added. “Kevin is a man of very high integrity and honesty.”
The Garratts lived in China for about 30 years before they were arrested in 2014.
Julia Garratt was released on bail six months after the arrest, but Kevin Garratt was indicted in January on accusations of spying for Canada and stealing Chinese state secrets.
The couple ran a coffee shop near China's border with North Korea and conducted Christian aid work. The Chinese Communist Party is officially atheist and religion is a sensitive topic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised Garratt’s case in meetings with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
In a statement issued Friday, Trudeau said he is “delighted that Kevin Garratt has returned safely to Canada and is with his family once more.”
“We remain deeply impressed by the grace and resilience of the Garratt family, especially Kevin and Julia,” he added.
Trudeau said the government was “seized of this case at the highest levels” and he thanked consular officials “who work behind the scenes every day in support of Canadians abroad.”
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper also raised the issue in a meeting with Premier Li in November 2014.
Li said at the time that "China continues to build a country under the rule of law, " which he has since repeated when questioned about the case.
Li is expected to visit Trudeau in Ottawa later this month.
With files from The Canadian Press