British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has expressed strong reactions over the execution of a British national in China on charges of drug smuggling yesterday morning.
‘I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted,’ the Prime Minister said.
The days and weeks leading up to the December 29 execution were spent pleading with Chinese authorities to spare 53-year-old British citizen Akmal Shaikh, who was charged with smuggling drugs into China. He was caught coming into China in September 2007 with 9 pounds of heroin, and was executed on December 29 in Urumqi in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. He is the first European to be executed in half a century.
The British government has tried to intervene in the case as Shaikh’s family repeatedly claimed that he suffered from bipolar disorder. This claim was corroborated by independent assessments from social workers in Poland. Shaikh had been living in Poland before flying to China.
According to an interview by BBC with Shaikh’s daughter Leilla Hornsell, her father had been convinced by drug smugglers in Poland that they would turn him into a pop star in China while singing about world peace. He was then given a suitcase to carry to China and allegedly had no knowledge that he was carrying drugs into the country.
Amnesty International was quoted with the following statement: “Under international human rights law, as well as Chinese law, a defendant’s mental health can and should be taken into account.” China, however, insists that Shaikh had been given a fair trial and that drug smuggling was a grave crime that will not be dealt with lightly.
The British Foreign Office reportedly summoned Chinese ambassador Fu Ying for a meeting with Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis “to hear of the government’s regret that Akmal Shaikh’s mental health had been ignored by the Chinese judiciary despite repeated interventions by those with an interest in his case”.