Houston artist sentenced to death by Chinese court: Family

Jessica Willey Image
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Houston artist sentenced to death in China
Devastating developments for a Houston family whose son has been sentenced to death in a country thousands of miles away from home.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston man, detained in China for more than six years without a verdict, has been found guilty and sentenced to death, suspended for two years.

Mark Swidan was found guilty of trafficking and manufacturing drugs. Tuesday, a Chinese court announced the death sentence. He has been detained since 2012.

"I am still in shock," said Katherine Swidan, Mark's mother. "I haven't slept, just not believing this."

RELATED: Alief mom wants justice for son detained in China without verdict for 6 years

The last time ABC13 spoke with Katherine, she sat in her Mission Bend home where most of the walls were bare. She had sold off belongings to pay for her son's defense.

Now she says she is trying to set up a crowd funding page to raise money so "I can go to China to see Mark for the last time."

The now 44-year-old had gone to China in 2012 to look for home flooring and fixtures, according to his mother. He was linked to a drug conspiracy.

Despite pleas from the U.S. government for due process, he had been waiting in prison for more than six years after his trial without a verdict. The evidence was thin, according to advocates.

His mother says Mark, once 6'2" and 220 pounds, has lost half his body weight in prison.

Experts say a suspended death sentence in China is often commuted to life.

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