British national Akmal Shaikh executed in China

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year old British national, has been executed at 10:30 China standard time (02:30 GMT) today. He was arrested for carrying drugs in September 2007. Shaikh is said to have suffered from bipolar disorder and pleas for clemency were made by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and actor Stephen Fry.

Location of Ürümqi in China
Image: The World Factbook.

Shaikh's condition reportedly caused him to suffer from delusions, and he had unrealistic ambitions to become a pop star. In his quest for stardom he travelled widely, first to Poland and then through Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where he associated with supposed music producers who promised to help him launch his music career. On 12 September 2007, Akmal Shaikh flew from Dushanbe, in Tajikistan, to Ürümqi, in north west China, where he was arrested by Chinese authorities for possession of 4kg of heroin.

Shaikh's family claims that he suffered from mental illness and was tricked by Polish smugglers into carrying drugs in a suitcase which did not belong to him, with a promise to make him a pop star in China. The Chinese buried his body in China and it will not be returned to his family in the UK.

Chinese state media say western news outlets are "politicizing" Mr. Shaikh punishment and that the Chinese officials have ruled that there is insufficient evidence of Mr. Shaikh alleged mental illness.