‘I’m just so thrilled for him’: Colleague of Michael Kovrig reacts to release

A colleague of Michael Kovrig says that he’s “thrilled” to hear that the Canadian is finally home after being detained in China for more than 1,000 days.

“It’s hard to describe but I’m just so thrilled for him and his family more than anybody else,” Praveen Madhiraju told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “This has been a long time coming and we’re just thrilled for this next chapter.”

Kovrig and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor both landed at Calgary International Airport early Saturday morning. Since December 2018, the two men had been detained while facing espionage charges, which came not long after Canadian authorities — responding to an extradition request from the U.S. — arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.

Meng was released on Friday after a deal with U.S. prosecutors. The same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that the two Michaels were on a flight back to Canada.

Madhiraju worked with Kovrig at Crisis Group, an international foreign policy think tank. Kovrig, an ex-diplomat, had been working in China as the group’s Northeast Asia advisor before his arrest.

“All of our staff has been focused on Michael’s release in this day since December 2018, more than 1,000 days,” Madhiraju said.

“A day didn’t go by since his detention that a large portion of our staff hadn’t thought about him.”

Crisis Group also released a statement on Saturday, applauding the efforts of Canadian diplomats to secure his release and expressing relief that the Chinese government has “righted this wrong.”

“Michael, we’re so proud of you. We’re so proud to have you as part of the Crisis Group family. You’re an inspiration to all of us. Welcome home,” the group said.

Madhiraju says Kovrig “showed the best of himself” during his time in detention.

“Throughout his time, he stayed very focused on discipline, on keeping himself mentally and physically fit. And out of that came a lot of grace and humility and humanity and concern and care for others,” he said.

“I think that will tell you more about Michael than anything else I can tell you.”​

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