(NewsNation) — Actor and Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson is using his voice and celebrity platform to call for the release of Mark Swidan, a Texas businessman, artist and architect who has languished in a Chinese prison cell since 2012.
Gibson, who is widely known for major motion pictures including “Braveheart,” “Signs” and the “Lethal Weapon” and “Road Warrior” franchises, sent NewsNation a video message in response to our original reporting on Swidan, who the Chinese accused and convicted of colluding with a Mexican cartel to make methamphetamine, despite a lack of evidence.
“Mark Swidan has been wrongfully and unlawfully imprisoned by the Chinese for almost 11 years,” Gibson said in a NewsNation exclusive, later adding: “He faces a death sentence. He’s a man of great faith, an American patriot, and he refuses during his captivity to renounce either his faith or his country.”
Gibson is a devout Catholic. In recent days, the actor and his priest in Malibu celebrated a special Mass on behalf of Swidan.
“The Mass today is offered for a man named Mark Swidan, unjustly imprisoned in China,” the priest said, in part. “Let us pray that, indeed, he remain faithful to Christ and that he be repatriated very soon and be delivered from his unjust captivity.”
In an exclusive interview Monday evening, Swidan’s mother told NewsNation her son has been held longer than any other American, yet he’s received significantly less attention than other Americans recently held captive.
“You know, it’s like Mark doesn’t exist,” Katherine Swidan said, later adding: “I’ve contacted so many people, and he’s never No. 1.”
This month, the State Department released a statement saying Swidan’s release remains a top priority for President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Gibson, who has faced a string of controversies himself, is urging fellow Americans to throw their support behind Swidan in an effort to bring him home to the U.S.
“The United States government has demanded his release, and we, as Americans, should stand up for this man who represents the best of us,” Gibson said. “I ask for all of you to raise your voices and demand Mark’s release, and to pray that he’s returned to his family.”
Katherine Swidan says it means the world that Gibson would get involved and throw his weight behind freeing her son.
Still, the clock is ticking for Mark Swidan, who is scheduled to be executed in two years. His appeal was just denied this month.