Mentally ill Briton 'could be executed within days'
A mentally ill British man could be executed in China within days after losing his appeal against the death sentence, a human rights charity said today.
Akmal Shaikh was arrested at Urumqi Airport in north-west China with 4kg (8.8lb) of heroin in a suitcase.
The 53-year-old father of five from Kentish Town in North London is believed to have bi-polar disorder. He was duped into carrying the luggage by a man from Kyrgyzstan who had told Mr Shaikh he could help him launch a career in the music industry.
Amnesty International is now urging people to visit http://www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty and write urgently to the Chinese authorities, calling on the Supreme People's Court to prevent the execution.
They are also urging the authorities to ensure Mr Shaikh has access to his family and any medical attention he may require, including psychiatric evaluation.
Up until now, the Chinese authorities have refused to allow him to be examined by a doctor.
Forensic psychologist Dr Peter Shaapveld, who travelled to China specifically to meet Mr Shaikh, was not allowed to see him.
After studying accounts by his family members, Dr Shaapveld concluded that "the evidence clearly points to the fact that Mr Shaikh was and/or is suffering from a severe mental disorder."
Earlier this week, Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband raised the issue during a meeting with Dai Bingguo, the Chinese state councillor for foreign affairs.
The Foreign Office later issued a statement which said: "The Prime Minister was shocked and disturbed to discover that the death sentence imposed in China on British national Akmal Shaikh has been upheld, without proper consideration of his mental health."
Actor Stephen Fry has also called for the death sentence to be commuted.
"I wouldn't be standing here pleading clemency for someone if I didn't think there was a real case for mercy," said Mr Fry last week.
"A real case where China can demonstrate that it does understand that mental illness can provoke people into doing things that are otherwise intolerable."
He added: "Akmal is a very delusional figure. He has a history of quite extraordinary and perplexing behaviour, mixing grandiosity and mental delusion in a very characteristic way for those who are severely affected by bipolar disorder.
"It's an affliction I suffer from myself to some extent - not, I'm happy to say, as severely as Akmal - but all through my life I've been to some extent dogged by mood swings."
Mr Shaikh was detained at the airport in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang region, on September 12, 2007, when he arrived on a flight from Tajikistan.
He was accused of carrying 4kg of heroin in his luggage. It is believed Mr Shaikh had been tricked by a criminal gang in Poland, where he had been living.
Gang members had promised to introduce him to people in the music business, who would assist him with his music career, and arranged for him to travel to Kyrgyzstan and then to China.
Mr Shaikh had been asked to carry the luggage that contained the heroin, believing that he was going to be able to launch a career as a pop star.
Amnesty International UK campaigns director Tim Hancock said: "Akmal Shaikh should not be executed. There's evidence that he may have a serious mental disorder, which could warrant a less extreme sentence under Chinese law.
"The Chinese authorities should allow a psychiatric evaluation immediately.
"China's Supreme People's Court has it in their power to stop this execution. We're calling on people to write to them immediately, urging them to intervene.
"The death penalty is always wrong, the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment. But in countries like China, where the prisoner is highly unlikely to have received a fair trial, its use is even more deplorable."
- 1 Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
- 2 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 3 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The one chart that shows how George Osborne is almost certainly going to be our next Prime Minister
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...