The Canadian government, as expected, said on Friday it would allow an extradition hearing to proceed against Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd who was detained in Canada late last year.
"Today, department of Justice Canada officials issued an authority to proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou," it said in a statement. In late January, the U.S. Justice Department charged Huawei and Meng with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Police arrested Meng Wanzhou, the telecommunication giant's chief financial officer, in Vancouver in December at Washington's request. In late January, the U.S. Justice Department charged Huawei and Meng with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Ottawa has until midnight on Friday (0500 GMT Saturday) to announce whether it will issue an authority to proceed, which would allow a court in the Pacific province of British Columbia to start a formal extradition hearing.
Joanna Harrington, a law professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said officials were most likely to give the green light.
"I have no reason to see why they wouldn't. We have an ongoing long-standing extradition relationship between the United States and Canada," she said by phone.
"The United States is a country with which we share a legal culture" and which Canada trusts, said Harrington, an international human rights law specialist.
After Meng's arrest Canadian officials said that the vast majority of U.S. requests for extradition were approved.
It could be years though before she is ever sent to the United States, since Canada's slow-moving justice system allows many decisions to be appealed.
Meng, under house arrest, is due to appear in a Vancouver court on March 6 to show authorities she is sticking to the terms of the December deal that allowed her to stay out of prison.
U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in December he would intervene if it served national security interests or helped close a trade deal with China, prompting Ottawa to stress the extradition process should not be politicized. Last week Trump played down the idea of dropping the charges.
Beijing is demanding Meng be released. After her detention, China arrested two Canadians on national security grounds, and a Chinese court later sentenced to death a Canadian man who previously had only been jailed for drug smuggling.
Vancouver criminal defense lawyer Gary Botting, an expert in extradition law, also predicted officials would issue the authority to proceed.
"I have little doubt that they probably will but it would be very foolish," he said by phone, saying that an approval would "invite a whole pile of grief" and possible economic retaliation from China.
A spokesman for the Canadian justice ministry declined to comment. David Martin, a lawyer for Meng, did not reply to a request for comment.