How an Aussie TV star ended up on China's death row
The Australian actor on death row in China was set up by "Chinese business people" who gave him a "gift" that led to his arrest, friends say.
Karm Gilespie, 56, was sentenced to death for allegedly carrying 7.5kg of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage while attempting to board an international flight from Baiyun Airport, in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
He was arrested in secret in 2013 but only sentenced in the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court on Saturday. He had just 10 days to appeal the verdict.
Mr Gilespie's friend, Roger James Hamilton, wrote on Facebook that the former Blue Heelers actor had a meeting with a "group of Chinese business people" prior to his flight and that the group "agreed to invest in one of Karm's projects".
But he says they duped him by asking him to carry "gifts" on board the flight.
"They gave him gifts as a show of good faith of their intentions; brand name leather goods and luggage. In the linings of the gifts of course is where the drugs were stashed".
Mr Hamilton says the reason Mr Gilespie's case was kept secret for so long is because his lawyer was trying to negotiate with China for his release.
"No one knew about the arrest … (because) … they thought it would jeopardise the negotiations," Mr Hamilton wrote.
"That approach has obviously failed."
Another friend, Jill Parris, said it was "very out of character" for the Australian not to contact her after he fell off the radar in 2013.
She said the pair had been friends for more than 30 years and when he stopped contacting her she became "very alarmed".
"He has not contacted me since December 10, 2013. That was our last phone call," she told Today.
"I'm 10/10 shocked. He was a straightforward person. Very honest … very truthful.
"His social media had not been updated.
"He is a family member to my children and myself."
On Facebook, Ms Parris wrote that Mr Gilespie was "over the moon in love with a new woman" from Thailand.
It's believed Mr Gilespie left his life in Australia to be with her.
"He was so excited about going on a business trip with (her) to Thailand," she wrote.
"I was reserved with my concerns as I didn't want to … rain on his excitement parade."
The concern from friends comes as Australia attempts to walk the diplomatic tightrope with Beijing.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told the ABC on Monday: "What we need to do is be very careful, and what we need to do is make sure that anything that's said about this matter doesn't affect Mr Gilespie's cause and cases in any way, shape or form."
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News' Sunday Agenda the development was "very distressing for Mr Gilespie and his loved ones".
He said Australia condemns the use of the death penalty and will continue to provide consular assistance.
Asked whether the sentence was linked to the ongoing political row between China and Australia the minister said: "We shouldn't necessarily view it as such."
"This is a reminder to all Australians … that Australian laws don't apply overseas."
Author and Charles Sturt University professor Clive Hamilton is an expert on Chinese Communist Party influence. He told ABC News on Monday morning that China has "clearly decided that Australia is irredeemably racist" and that Mr Gilespie's sentence appears to be a reaction to strained relations with the Morrison Government.
"(China thinks) that we are merely a pawn of the United States. That it can't win us back any more, and that it is just going to pull out the hammer and start beating us as they've now done in several different ways, just as they have with Canada," Mr Hamilton said.
"And so, it's been extremely interesting to see the way in which the Morrison Government and the Prime Minister, himself, have been really quite clear about this.
"They haven't engaged in insults or attacks. They've just said, 'No, we're going to stand firm and defend Australian values and Australian interests'. And this will be extremely galling to Beijing.
"Because they believe in their bones that small and medium sized countries should give way. They are a big country and we should know our place."
After Mr Gilespie's arrest, all of his personal property was confiscated.
Friends say he never wrote or called after 2013. Many of them only learned of his plight this week.
- with AAP
Originally published as How Aussie on death row was duped