China: Execution date set for London man – Amnesty reaction

Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old father of five from north London facing execution in China, 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.

Reacting to the news, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

"This is terrible news for both Akmal Shaikh and his family. Amnesty supporters in the UK and elsewhere have written to China's Supreme People's Court, urging them to stop Akmal's execution. It is saddening that their appeals have gone unheeded.

"Akmal Shaikh will not have received a fair trial and it appears that evidence of mental illness has not been given due consideration. A case like this shows the true inhumanity of the death penalty."

Akmal Shaikh's family and lawyer have argued that he has suffered for many years with mental instability and is likely to have a bipolar disorder. Despite these claims, the Chinese authorities refused to allow Akmal Shaikh to be examined by a doctor. Forensic psychologist Dr Peter Shaapveld, who travelled to China specifically to meet Shaikh, was not allowed to meet him. After investigating through family members and other channels, however, he concluded that "the evidence clearly points to the fact that Mr. Shaikh was and/or is suffering from a severe mental disorder."

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.

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.

Find out more about Akmal Shaikh's case

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