Briton's song released in bid to avert execution

Supporters hope 'deluded' lyrics will convince Chinese court to spare Akmal Shaikh

Clifford Coonan
Thursday 29 October 2009 01:00

He is a severely delusional Briton who faces the death sentence for drug smuggling in China, a country where he hoped to become a pop star and bring about world peace.

Now supporters of Akmal Shaikh, a former cab driver whose family say has bipolar disorder, are hoping that releasing a pop song he recorded called "Come Little Rabbit" will help convince the Chinese judiciary of his fragile mental state and halt his execution.

Mr Shaikh, from Kentish Town, London, was arrested in 2007 in Urumqi in China's western Xinjiang province with 4kg of heroin, with a value of £250,000.

Before he left for China, Mr Shaikh, 53, recorded the song, which No. 1 hit and bring peace to the world, according to the London-based human rights group Reprieve, which is trying to stop his execution.

Akbar Shaikh, Mr Shaikh's brother, said hearing the record was an upsetting experience. "It reminds me of how he deludes himself and does not live in the real world. I'm sure he really thought he would be a superstar with this song. I hope that people can hear how vulnerable Akmal is and that the Chinese are able to show him mercy and compassion," Mr Shaikh said in a statement.

The lyrics are about rabbits and peace ("Come little rabbit come and play/ Come little rabbit let us sing") and Reprieve believes the song illustrates the delusional nature of Mr Shaikh's illness and also his extreme vulnerability.

Mr Shaikh, who wrote emails to US and British officials describing himself as a millionaire and a messiah, moved to Poland several years ago, where he intended to set up an airline, which he was clearly in no position to do. While he was in Warsaw he wrote the song with a man named Carlos, who said he knew a producer in Kyrgyzstan who could help.

Mr Shaikh had no experience of singing in public before he headed to China, and campaigners say he was tricked into carrying the suitcase in Kyrgyzstan by the "producer".

Reprieve has also asked for permission for a forensic psychologist, Peter Schaapveld, to assess Mr Shaikh, but he has been denied access. Instead, Mr Shaikh made his own presentation at his appeal in May, a long, rambling and often incoherent statement that had the judges laughing out loud at points.

Mr Shaikh's case is now in its final stage of appeal at the People's Supreme Court, and if he does not win the appeal, he faces a speedy execution.

The Chinese foreign ministry is expected to answer questions about the case at its weekly press conference today.

Sally Rowen, legal director of Reprieve's death penalty section, said: "We need to ask ourselves whether a man who thinks that singing about rabbits will bring world peace is fit to stand trial, let alone be executed. We hope that China will allow Akmal a full psychiatric evaluation and make their decision in line with Chinese law."

If Mr Shaikh is indeed executed, he would be the first British citizen to be executed in China in modern times. China executes more people than all other countries put together, but it rarely executes Westerners.

Gordon Brown and the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, have raised the case with Dai Bingguo, the Chinese state councillor for foreign affairs, while Britain has separately urged China to show clemency on numerous occasions.

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