Canadian News Sep 24, 2021 9:37 PM EST

BREAKING: Two Michaels released, en route back to Canada

"About 12 minutes ago," Trudeau said just before 9 pm on Friday, "the aircraft carrying Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor left Chinese air space and they're on their way home."

BREAKING: Two Michaels released, en route back to Canada
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Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been held in Chinese custody since December 2018, have been released and are making their way back to Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the welcome announcement on Friday.

"About 12 minutes ago," Trudeau said just before 9 pm on Friday, "the aircraft carrying Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor left Chinese air space and they're on their way home."

"They boarded at about 7:30 [pm] Ottawa time along with Dominic Barton, Canada's ambassador to China."

The US had called on China to release the two Michaels, as they have become known, to no avail.

This comes as Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the US. She has been held on house arrest in British Columbia while the US requested she be extradited to face charges over alleged violations of sanctions against Iran.

This means that the extradition request is likely to be withdrawn. Meng made a virtual appearance in Brooklyn Federal Court in New York on Friday, where she pleaded not guilty on several fraud charges including bank frank, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

She was initially arrested in December 2018, only nine days after the two Michaels were arrested under China's state secrets laws. Their arrest was widely believed to be a retaliation for Meng's detainment.

Her imprisonment, where she lived on house arrest at her sprawling home and was allowed to leave the premises with a tracking device, was a far cry from the isolation the Michaels experienced.

The two Michaels were held for over 1,000 days, and both were charged with espionage. In August, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while Kovrig has awaited sentencing.

Erin O'Toole tweeted out his joy at this news, as many across Canada undoubtedly shared in the relief that the two men are finally making their way back home.

Trudeau did not offer further details of the case or of the Michael's release. He said that "there's going to be time for reflection and analysis in the coming days and weeks. But the fact of the matter is, I know Canadians will be incredibly happy to know right now, this Friday night, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are on a plane and they're coming home."

While the Chinese government has held to their position that the two arrests had nothing to do with the detainment of Meng, the CCP was accused internationally of "hostage diplomacy," reports The New York Times.

The Michaels were denied any diplomatic visits for months on end, were not held in the same prison, and became living symbols of what can happen when nations cross Beijing.

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