An Australian man sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling is a former actor who once appeared on the show Blue Heelers.
Friends of Karm Gilespie have spoken out in his defence and urged the Australian government to do more to prevent his death.
Gilespie was arrested with more than 7.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage in 2013 while attempting to board an international flight from Baiyun Airport in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has said in a statement it is “deeply saddened to hear of the verdict,” adding that “access to prisoners in China remains difficult given measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.
Roger James Hamilton, a Bali-based entrepreneur and futurist, said in a Facebook post that he taught Gilespie seven years ago before he apparently vanished.
“We spent a few years trying to find out how he could disappear so suddenly and so entirely. After that, we resigned ourselves to the idea that he had left because he wanted to start a new life,” he wrote in the post.
“He had been an active member of our community, encouraging others to be the best they could be. He was always there for others, which was why it was so strange that he suddenly disappeared.”
Mr Hamilton claimed his former friend had been set up and was innocent of the drug smuggling conviction made against him.
“Knowing Karm, and knowing the love he had (and has) for his wife and his children, this is not a man that deserves to lose his life.
“This is an Australian citizen who has been kept secretly in jail by a foreign government for seven years before being sentenced to death with no due process.”
Gilespie, who later became a motivational speaker, wrote on a business profile that he had appeared in the TV shows Blue Heelers and The Man.
He also had a lead role in Strzelecki with Strzelecki Theatre at the former Playbox theatre.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said this morning that Gilespie’s case was not necessarily linked to the ongoing friction between the countries.
The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court announced his sentencing on Saturday. The court also ordered that all of Gilespie’s personal property be confiscated.
“This is very distressing for Mr Gilespie and his loved ones, and our government will continue to provided consular assistance,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
He said Gilespie still has a 10-day window to appeal the verdict.
He said Australia condemns the death penalty in all circumstances across all countries.
“This is a reminder to all Australians … that Australian laws don’t apply overseas, that other countries have much harsher penalties, particularly in relation to matters such as drug trafficking,” the minister said.
Asked whether he thought this incident was linked to the ongoing political row between China and Australia, the senator said: “We shouldn’t necessarily view it as such.”
Meanwhile, there are also grave concerns for for another Australian citizen currentlyin a Chinese jail – Yang Hengjun.
Hengjun was arrested in January 2019 and charged with espionage. He has had no access to his family or lawyer and his last contact with Australian officials was in December.