Calls over China death row Briton

The family of a north London man condemned to death in China has written to the Chinese Ambassador urging Beijing to show compassion.

Akmal Shaikh, 53, from Kentish Town, is to be executed on Tuesday after losing a final appeal this week.

He was arrested on 12 September, 2007 in Urumqi, north-west China, and charged with drug smuggling.

Campaigners claim his mental illness - he has bipolar disorder - has not been taken into account.

Shaikh's brother, Akbar, tells in his letter how his brother's life was destroyed by mental illness. He also says that Akmal, when healthy, was a kind and harmless man who was much loved by his family.

He writes to Madam Fu Ying that the family were devastated when they learned of his arrest, adding: "When he is well, my brother is a kind and loving man, who would never harm anyone. The idea that he would be transporting drugs is completely out of character for him.

"Our family strongly believes that Akmal must have been delusional at the time of his arrest, and it does seem that others took advantage of his mental vulnerability.

"We now plead for mercy and clemency. We have the greatest respect for the Chinese government, its people, and the high value placed on the importance of the family."

Sally Rowen, legal director of the death penalty team for human rights campaign group Reprieve, said: "During this holiday season, Akmal Shaikh's family are living through an unimaginable nightmare as they contemplate their loved one's execution. Akbar's letter, written with the highest respect for the Chinese people, is a heart-rending plea for compassion."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is among those who have urged the Chinese government to grant Mr Shaikh a reprieve from the death sentence.

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