Briton faces execution in China

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year old British national, has been held in prison in the People's Republic of China since 2007 under charges of drug trafficking and is due to be executed at 10:30 China standard time (02:30 GMT) on 29 December 2009.

Location of Ürümqi in China
Image: The World Factbook.

Shaikh is said to suffer from bipolar disorder and pleas for clemency have been made by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and actor Stephen Fry.

Shaikh's condition reportedly causes him to suffer from delusions, and he has 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 posession of 4kg of heroin.

Opponents of his execution claim he suffers from mental illness and was tricked into carrying drugs in a suitcase which did not belong to him. Shaikh is currently being held in a secure hospital in Ürümqi.

The Chinese Embassy in London has issued a statement about the case, citing the obligations of the People's Republic of China to United Nations Conventions against Illicit Drug Trafficking and the need to punish the "grave crime" of drug smuggling. The embassy statement guarantees Shaikh's rights and interests under Chinese law.

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