An Australian man sentenced to death in China for smuggling 7.5kg of ice has been identified as actor Karm Gilespie.
Gillespie, 56, has been incarcerated in China since 2013 and on Wednesday was sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court.
According to his Linkedin profile, Gilespie is a Melbourne-based actor who moved into property development.
He also starred in Blue Heelers with a recurring role, 7News reported.
Roger James Hamilton, a friend of Gilespie’s, told The Age the 56-year-old vanished seven years ago and friends couldn’t figure out what had happened to him.
"He had been an active member of our community, encouraging others to be the best they could be,” he told the paper.
“He was always there for others, which was why it was so strange that he suddenly disappeared."
Mr Hamilton has also questioned whether Gilespie is guilty of drug trafficking and believes he may have been set up.
Friends of Gilespie, who haven’t been named, told The Age they had never seen Gilespie drink or smoke.
Tahnee Woolf, who met Gilespie in 2008 while he was working on a one-man show of Banjo Paterson poems, told News Corp she felt “terrible” on hearing of what had happened to him.
“I cannot imagine what his family is going through,” she told News Corp.
Death penalty comes during rising tension
News of the court’s decision was widely reported on Saturday, with The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade condemning the decision.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of the verdict made in his case,” a DFAT spokesperson said.
“Australia opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances for all people. We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”
Trade minister Simon Birmingham was asked by Sky News on Sunday whether Gilespie’s sentencing had anything to do with rising tensions between China and Australia to which he replied: “We shouldn’t necessarily view it as such.”
Mr Birmingham said Gilespie has 10 days to appeal.
Australia’s relationship with China has been tense since prime minister Scott Morrison declared it would lead the way in investigating the origins of coronavirus.
China has also slapped tariffs on barley, blocked beef imports and widely criticised Australia for being racist to Chinese visitors - a claim played down by Mr Morrison.
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