Pleas for disabled British man facing execution in China

By staff writers
December 27, 2009

Relatives of a British man facing execution for drug smuggling in China have arrived in the country to make last-minute appeals to authorities for mercy, with his execution due on 29 December 2009.

Akmal Shaikh, aged 53, from London, faces the death penalty after he was convicted of smuggling heroin. But he suffers from bipolar disorder and those close to him say they are sure that he was tricked into carrying the drugs.

His daughter made a recent appeal for clemency on BBC Radio 4 and his cousins, Soohail and Nasir Shaikh, now plan to deliver a plea on his behalf to President Hu Jintao.

Mr Shaikh's supporters are highlighting his mental disability and the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has asked the Chinese authorities to show mercy.

The BBC reports that British consular staff have also flown to the Chinese region of Xinjiang to see the condemned Briton and discuss his case with local officials.

The legal charity Reprieve, which has taken up the case, said Mr Shaikh's cousins left the UK on Saturday 26 December. They will deliver petitions seeking a legal review to China's Supreme People's Court and to the local court in the north-western city of Urumqi where Mr Shaikh was arrested in September 2007.

Reprieve said the men, who are brothers, also planned to appeal to China's president and to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which is responsible for considering petitions for pardon or clemency.

China executed 1,718 people in 2008, according to Amnesty International. Last year 72 per cent of the world's total executions took place in the country. Capital punishment is even applied in non-violent cases such as embezzlement and fraud.

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