China Ignores Multiple Clemency Requests, Hangs British National

On charges of drug smuggling, China has gone ahead with execution of a British national who reportedly had mental health problem, ignoring last minute appeals by the British government and his relatives.

Flaying Akmal Shaikh’s execution, British premier Gordon Brown said that he was ‘appalled and disappointed’ that multiple requests for clemency were ignored.

Shaikh, 43, was arrested in September 2007 in China’s Xinjiang region with nearly four kilograms of heroin. He was served a death sentence and later lost his appeal in China’s Supreme Court.

On the ground that he was mentally ill, Shaikh’s case drew support from the British government and many international rights groups.

The London prisoner’s rights group Reprieve provided Shaikh legal support.

Reprieve spokeswoman Katherine O’Shea said that media exposure prompted new witnesses to emerge who recalled Shaikh’s delusional behavior.

“A lot of them related to the last few years of his life when he was down and out and homeless, and roaming the streets raving,” said O’Shea.

“He was raving about a song he’d written that was going to become a number one world hit and bring peace to the world, and it was at this time that he met the drug gang and they exploited his delusions and said that they had a gig (music performance) organized for him in China if he would only travel with them.”

According to O’Shea, the witnesses signed their statements, which Reprieve sent to the Chinese embassy, but they were ignored.

Earlier this year, China’s Supreme Court had ruled that that evidence of Shaikh’s mental illness was ‘insufficient’.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, after the execution, said that the case was handled in accordance with law and Shaikh’s rights were protected.

He also said that China opposes Britain’s reaction to Shaikh’s execution, and hopes the case will not unnecessarily affect China-Britain relations.

However, Reprieve’s O’Shea says Shaikh did not receive a medical evaluation while in prison.

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