Australia 'disheartened' by death sentence in China

A Chinese paramilitary policeman wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus stands guard outside the Australian Embassy in Beijing, Saturday, June 6, 2020. China is advising its citizens not to visit Australia, citing racial discrimination and violence against Asians, in what appears to be Beijing's latest attempt to punish the country for advocating an investigation into the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A Chinese paramilitary policeman wearing a face mask to protect against the new coronavirus stands guard outside the Australian Embassy in Beijing, Saturday, June 6, 2020. China is advising its citizens not to visit Australia, citing racial discrimination and violence against Asians, in what appears to be Beijing's latest attempt to punish the country for advocating an investigation into the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia on Sunday described as “deeply disheartening” a death sentence China imposed on an Australian man accused of drug smuggling, and the trade minister said it shouldn’t be linked to ongoing friction over trade and the pandemic.

Karm Gilespie was arrested in 2013 at Baiyun Airport in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on charges of attempting to board an international flight with more than 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds) of methamphetamine in his check-in luggage.

The Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on Saturday announced Gilespie had been sentenced to death and ordered the confiscation of all of his personal property.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was “deeply saddened to hear of the verdict."

“Australia opposes the death penalty, in all circumstances for all people,” it said. “We support the universal abolition of the death penalty and are committed to pursuing this goal through all the avenues available to us.”

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham called the sentence “distressing” but said it shouldn’t necessarily be linked to disputes between China and Australia.

“This is very distressing for Mr. Gilespie and his loved ones and our government will continue to provided consular assistance,” Birmingham told Sky News Sunday.

“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.”

Australia has led calls for an inquiry into China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

In response China, Australia’s largest trading partner, has imposed some new restrictions on Australian exports and issued travel warnings to Chinese students planning to study in Australia, citing racism.

Gilespie has 10 days to appeal his sentence.

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This story was first published on June 14, 2020. It was updated on June 15, 2020, to correct the spelling of the man’s name to Karm Gilespie, not Cam Gillespie.

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