China faces embassy protest over execution


China is facing further protests over its execution of a British man with bipolar disorder.

Protesters appalled at the execution of Akmal Shaikh on 29 December are due to hold a peaceful demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in London on Sunday (10 January).

Members of Shaikh’s family have also written to foreign secretary David Miliband, demanding an inquest into his death.

His brother Akbar said in the letter: “My family is suffering incredible grief and torment over the many unanswered questions surrounding Akmal’s death.

“We have begged the Chinese for answers …but none have been forthcoming.”

He said an inquest would help answer some of the family’s questions so that the “terrible mysteries surrounding my brother’s apparent death, 7,000 miles from his family and all alone, can be resolved for us”.

Much of the anger of relatives and campaigners has been directed at the Chinese authorities’ refusal to carry out an assessment of Shaikh’s mental health, despite overwhelming evidence that he had bipolar disorder.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, which supports prisoners facing the death penalty and campaigned on Shaikh’s behalf, said: “An inquest would give this grieving family a crucial insight into Akmal’s final hours, his mental state and the extent to which he suffered before he died.

“Only then can they begin to recover from the trauma of Akmal’s lonely and senseless death.”

Shaikh, who was originally from Kentish Town, north London, was arrested in 2007 at an airport in northwest China and found to be carrying four kilogrammes of heroin in a suitcase.

Reprieve says he was taken advantage of by drug smugglers who knew about his mental health condition and befriended him after he moved to Poland.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman confirmed that they had received Akbar Shaikh’s letter, and were considering the request for an inquest.

7 January 2010

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