Texas artist sentenced to death by Chinese court, family says

HOUSTON, Texas -- 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."

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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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