SAN FRANCISCO – April 30, 2019 – After spending nearly six and a half years in a Chinese detention center without having been convicted of a crime, 44-year-old American businessman Mark Swidan has been found guilty of trafficking and manufacturing drugs and sentenced to death, suspended for two years. The Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court announced the sentence on April 30, 2019, more than five years after Swidan’s trial in 2013.
Mark Swidan and ten other individuals were found guilty by the Jiangmen court, including two who were sentenced to death. One of those sentenced to death is a Canadian citizen. All of those convicted have 10 days to appeal their sentences.
Since Swidan’s trial in 2013, the Jiangmen court has applied for extensions of the statutory requirement to announce a judgement no later than three months after the trial. The Supreme People’s Court in Beijing granted the extensions on more than 20 occasions. No explanation was provided to the family.
According to a summary of the case published by the Dui Hua Foundation in November 2017, “Mark Swidan was taken into custody during a police raid on his hotel room on November 12, 2012. He was on a business trip. Two individuals – an interpreter and a driver – had come to his room. Police reportedly found drugs on their persons. No drugs were found on Mr. Swidan or in his room. Drugs were found in the room of another suspect. No forensic evidence has been produced – no drugs in his system, no DNA on the packages, no fingerprints on the packages or drug paraphernalia – tying Mr. Swidan to the drugs. No emails, letters, or phone calls have been found that link Mr. Swidan to any drug transaction. The indictment states that Mr. Swidan played a secondary role in the alleged crime. Prosecutors recommended a lesser sentence. Mr. Swidan has no history of criminal behavior, including using or trafficking in drugs.”
Katherine Swidan has led the fight for her son’s freedom. The news of this cruel sentence is a crushing blow to her and her family in Houston, Texas.
The American consulate in Guangzhou has paid Mr. Swidan monthly visits and consular officers attended both the 2013 trial and the 2019 sentencing. The Department of State and the White House have raised his case with the Chinese government on numerous occasions. More recently, a local Catholic Church in Houston has offered support for the family. The family’s congressman, Representative Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), has taken up Mr. Swidan’s cause, as well.
The Dui Hua Foundation, based in San Francisco, has advocated for Mr. Swidan on numerous occasions since it first became aware of Mr. Swidan’s plight more than five years ago, placing his name on dozens of appeals made to the Chinese government.
“At the hour of Mark Swidan’s sentencing, American Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Trade Representative Lighthizer were in Beijing to discuss a deal to end the trade war between the United States and China,” noted John Kamm, Dui Hua’s executive director. “Both countries agree that the ultimate success of any agreement to end the trade war depends on enforcement in a system based on judicial transparency and due process. The Swidan family was never told why the judgment was repeatedly extended, a violation of a basic norm of transparency. Mr. Swidan’s rights to a fair trial and due process have been seriously abused. This is a sad day for justice in China.”
Mr. Swidan’s sentence is believed to be the first time an American citizen has been sentenced to death, suspended for two years, by a Chinese court.
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