Australian’s death sentence in China distressing, says Australian minister


Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the sentencing of an Australian to death in China for drug smuggling should not be linked to the ongoing friction between the countries. (File photo)

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Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the sentencing of an Australian to death in China for drug smuggling should not be linked to the ongoing friction between the countries. (File photo)

Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham says the sentencing of an Australian to death in China for drug smuggling should not be linked to the ongoing friction between the countries.

Karm Gilespie, 56, 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 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 provide consular assistance,” Senator Birmingham told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.

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Asked whether he thought the sentence was linked to the ongoing political row between China and Australia he said: “We shouldn’t necessarily view it as such.”

Bali-based entrepreneur Roger James Hamilton said in a Facebook post that he taught Gilespie seven years ago before he suddenly 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 on Sunday.

“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.”

Hamilton claims his friend had been duped into carrying the drugs.

“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’s own Facebook page has remained inactive since 2013.

“We all want more stuff …. When really, all we really want is LOVE,” he wrote on November 24, 2013.

In a business profile, Gilespie said he once worked as an actor, with television credits in Blue Heelers and The Man from Snowy River.

He also appeared in stage productions before turning to investing, motivational speaking and business coaching, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Senior Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen said Gilespie’s sentence was “deeply concerning”.

Bowen said drug smuggling was a serious crime, “but the death penalty is never the right answer”.

Senator Birmingham 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.

Bowen said both sides of politics opposed the death penalty.

“The government will have our full support … and we trust and expect they are making the appropriate representations quietly behind the scenes,” he told reporters in Sydney.

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