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News - China News
Written by ND
The british embassy in Beijing confirmed the execution of british citizen Akmal Shaikh. The 53-old british national was executed with a a lethal injection in Urumqi, the capital of the western chinese province Xinjiang. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned this measure very clearly. He is "deeply disappointed" and "upset" that repeated requests for mercy were not heard at all. Akmal Shaikh is the first Anglo-European since 50 years who was executed in China.

Shaikh was arrested in September 2007 with more than 4 kg heroin in his luggage. In October 2008 he was condemned (after a 30 minutes trial!) to death by lethal injection. According to his family and the London based aid organisation "Reprieve", Shaikh is mentally ill. The drugs were given to him without his knowledge by criminals, said "Reprieve". Shaikh denied all knowledge of the heroin when he was arrested in Urumqi.

British Prime Minister Brown expressed deep regrets that the mental state of Shaikh was not considered in the court's decision. He said: "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. I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken." Not even hectical phone conversations - a couple of hourse before Shaikh's execution - between british exterior minister David Miliband and Beijing could change the decision of chinese authorities.

Britain accused chinese authorities not to have taken in account Shaikh's mental health as it is dictated by law. China insisted that this case is conducted strictly by the law. Drug trafficking is a serious crime, also in China.  "The rights of the defendant were fully respected" said a representant of the chinese exterior ministry.

Shaikh's lawyers declared that, despite their repeated requests to the chinese judge and the prison, they were never allowed to meet their client in person. Chinas Supreme Court never took in account Shaikh's mental state and ignored any request in that matter.

According to british media reports, Shaikh was informed of his execution just 24 hours before. This was done because of "humanitarian reasons", said the chinese authorities...

British national Akmal Shaikh was executed at 10.30 a.m. local time on December 29 in Urumqi, China.

More information

Shaikh, a Muslim, was born in Pakistan, and he migrated with his parents during his childhood to the United Kingdom. He married and had two sons and a daughter with his first wife; she had converted from Hinduism to Islam when they married. They lived in the United States in the 1980s, where Shaikh was an estate agent. They moved back to London when the business failed. He then started a mini-cab business in Kentish Town but fell into bankruptcy. His first marriage ended in divorce in 2004.

Shaikh was arrested on 12th September 2007 at Ürümqi Airport when a baggage search revealed he was carrying 4 kilograms (9 lb) of heroin with 84.2% purity. Shaikh denied all knowledge of the heroin. He claimed that he had been duped into carrying the drugs as an unwitting mule after falling for a confidence trick in which a gang of Eastern European fraudsters pretended they would help Shaikh become a pop star.

Shaikh told the officials that he knew nothing of the drugs, and that the suitcase was not even his. As part of their inquiries the Chinese authorities set up a sting operation to catch "Okole". Shaikh informed authorities that Okole was to arrive on the next plane; they waited for him, but Okole never turned up.

The Chinese criminal code provides the death penalty for smuggling heroin in quantities more than 50 grams (2 oz). During his trial, Shaikh was not allowed to plead insanity in his defense, and was sentenced to death after 30 minutes. At his first appeal hearing, Shaikh was allowed to speak, and gave a a rambling 50 minute speech. Two lawyers were hired by the British embassy to represent Shaikh, and the lawyers met multiple times with Shaikh and with British diplomats to discuss the case. Judges were "openly laughing" at his erratic speech as Shaikh pleaded for his life. A request for an independent assessment on his mental condition was denied, and the court upheld his death sentence. Shaikh did not claim to be suffering from mental disorder or attempt to plea for insanity defense throughout the trials.

Reaction to execution

United Kingdom

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, released a statement following the execution saying: "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. I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken." Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said: "The UK is completely opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. However I also deeply regret the fact that our specific concerns about the individual in this case were not taken into consideration despite repeated calls by the Prime Minister, ministerial colleagues and me. These included mental health issues, and inadequate professional interpretation during the trial."

The Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, said that he deplored and deeply regretted the fact that the Chinese authorities ignored the pleas for clemency made, and failed to take account of serious concerns about Shaikh's mental health. Cameron added: "It is appalling that these concerns were not independently assessed during the more than two years Mr Shaikh was in custody and taken properly into account in the judicial process."

People's Republic of China

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, "Nobody has the right to speak ill of China's judicial sovereignty. We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British Government's unreasonable criticism of the case. We urge the British to correct their mistake in order to avoid harming China-UK relations."

The Chinese Embassy in London issued a statement saying, "The legal structures of China and UK may be different, but it should not stand in the way of enhancing our bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect." Further, the Embassy cited "the bitter memory of history" (in reference to the Opium trade of the 19th Century) as a reason for the "strong resentment" felt by the Chinese public to drug traffickers and foreign (especially British) interference.

The majority of Chinese public supported Shaikh's execution. A survey by China Daily showed 77.5% in favour of the execution and 16% opposing. Voices supporting the execution also dominated the Chinese online community, supporters include oversea Chinese, legal specialists, government officials as well as journalists. In another recent online survey, 98.2% of the 40000 Chinese internet users sampled voted in favor of the execution.

International reaction

United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said: "We are informed that the initial conviction was based on a 30-minute hearing which would not seem to indicate due process or effective defence or presentation of evidence. We are then told that in the appeal requests to present medical evidence, requests to the court that it should appoint an expert to assess Mr Shaikh were all rejected. So, it's not very encouraging in fact that the Chinese courts were so dismissive of what appears to be at least a strong initial case.

In a statement, the European Union said: "The European Union condemns in the strongest terms the execution of Akmal Shaikh. It deeply regrets the fact that China has not heeded the repeated calls by the European Union and one of its member states for the death sentence passed against Mr Shaikh to be commuted."

Amnesty International said the execution highlighted the "injustice and inhumanity of the death penalty, particularly as it is implemented in China... The UK, the EU and the rest of the world should continue to press the Chinese government to increase the transparency surrounding the death penalty in China and to improve the due process offered all defendants, particularly those facing charges punishable by death."

Our valuable Editor ND has been with us since Monday, 15 June 2009.

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