Pubdate: Mon, 28 Dec 2009
Source: China Post, The (Taiwan)
Copyright: 2009 The China Post.
Bookmark: (Heroin)


URUMQI -- Relatives visited a British man on the eve of his scheduled
execution in China for drug smuggling and made a last-minute plea for
mercy amid concerns he may be mentally ill.

Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old father of three, is due to be executed
Tuesday. The two cousins who visited him Monday said he had not been aware
of the death penalty he is facing.

He would be the first citizen of a European country to be executed in
China in half a century.

China has said his case was handled according to law, and has already
rejected a plea from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for Shaikh to be

"We beg the Chinese authorities for mercy and clemency to help reunite
this heartbroken family," his cousin, Soohail Shaikh, said in a statement
read to reporters in the far western city of Urumqi, where his cousin is
being held.

Such eleventh-hour appeals are almost never granted in China, which
executes more people each year than all other countries combined.

Soohail Shaikh said he and his brother Nasir Shaikh visited Akmal Shaikh
on Monday morning -- his first direct family contact in two years.

Soohail Shaikh said his cousin had not previously been told of his
impending execution.

"He was obviously very upset on hearing from us of the sentence that was
passed," Soohail Shaikh said. "We strongly feel that he's not rational and
he needs medication."

Shaikh was sentenced in a half-hour trial in October 2008 for taking a
suitcase containing almost 9 pounds (4 kilograms) of heroin into Urumqi in

A preliminary psychological report commissioned by the London-based
prisoner advocacy group Reprieve said Shaikh's actions "were most likely
influenced by some form of delusional psychosis."

Britain has accused Chinese officials of not taking Shaikh's mental health
concerns into account as required by law.

Soohail Shaikh said his cousin has no prior criminal record.

"We feel a pardon would allow Akmal to get the medical assistance he needs
as well as the healing love from his family," Soohail Shaikh said.
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