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China: Amnesty calls on Gordon Brown to urge Chinese Premier to stop execution of British man

Amnesty International today (22 December) called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to urgently appeal to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao to stop a British man being executed in less than seven days from now.

Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old father of five from north London, has had his execution date confirmed for 29 December, according to reports. Akmal, who is believed to be mentally ill, was sentenced to death for drug-smuggling on 29 October.

Amnesty International UK’s China Campaign Manager Kristyan Benedict said:

“We’re calling on Gordon Brown to contact President Hu Jintao and urge him to stop the execution.

“This is the last chance for Akmal Shaikh – he could be executed in less than a week. The Prime Minister must pick up the phone today and do everything he can to save Akmal.”

Amnesty has issued an urgent message to its supporters, asking them to contact the Prime Minster and urge him to take immediate action. Take action now

Akmal Shaikh has suffered for many years with mental instability and is likely to have a bipolar disorder, according to his family, lawyer and the assessment of medical professionals commissioned by Reprieve to look into his case. According to Article 18 of China's Criminal Law, a mental patient who commits a crime, and has not completely lost the ability to recognise or control his own conduct at the time, still has criminal responsibility but may be given a lighter punishment. Yet the Chinese authorities refused to allow Akmal Shaikh to be examined by a doctor.

The death penalty is applicable to approximately 68 offences in China, including non-violent ones. China executes more people each year than any other country and while official statistics remain secret, Amnesty’s figures show that China executed at least 1,718 people in 2008, nearly three-quarters (72%) of the world’s executions. At least 7,003 people were sentenced to death in China last year. These figures represent a minimum - the real figures are undoubtedly much higher. Amnesty is urging China to introduce a legal procedure for clemency and to eliminate the death penalty for all non-violent crimes, with a view to establishing a moratorium on the death penalty.

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