Akmal Shaikh, a North London small business owner and husband with five children was executed by the Chinese authorities in Urumqi at 10:30 this morning, the 29th December 2009. He had on Oct 2008, been found guilty of smuggling over 4Kg of heroin into China, enough to kill 28,000 according to the Chinese. This crime of ‘serious drug smuggling’ is a capital offence in China.This is the first time that the Chinese have executed a European national in 50 years. The execution went ahead despite personal approaches from Gordon Brown to the Chinese president for clemency. The only move toward appeasing the UK was execution by lethal injection as opposed to the normal firing squad. He was also allowed a visit by two of his cousins on Boxing Day.
According to Reprieve, in 2007 Akmal met a ‘Carlos’ in Poland, they had previously written a pop song together that Akmal wanted to record. Carlos told Akmal that he knew people who could help, so Akmal was sent to Kyrgystan. On the journey Akmal was accompanied by a man who claimed to own a nightclub that Akmal could perform in. On the next leg to China and after a stay in a 5 star hotel Akmal believed he had made the first steps to stardom. On the 12th September 2007 Akmal flew from Dushanbe, Tajikistan to Urumqi, China. He took with him the hopes of launching a career as a pop artiste. What it seems he didn’t know, was that he had also been tricked into carrying a large cache of drugs into China as well.
On being apprehended he claimed no knowledge of the drugs and tried to help the Chinese authorities as much as possible. But after a 30 minute trial he was sentenced to death. On top of this frighteningly short trial Akmal was given no mental health assessment despite there being much evidence to show he suffered from Bi-polar disorder, manic depression and delusional behaviour. ‘A preliminary medical report by clinical psychologist Dr Peter Schaapveld suggests that the odd decisions leading up to Akmal’s offence were most likely influenced by some form of delusional psychosis’ – Reprieve.
Reprieve and a very brave local lawyer did what they could but in the end to no avail.
Gordon Brown has issued a very stiff statement in condemnation of the Chinese action, strong enough to prompt the Chinese to wave the stick that this will hurt our bi-lateral friendship (trade) back in our face. They have been very robust inn their own defence knowing that, although relations may be soured for some months to come, trade will continue. If this were a small nation we were dealing with no doubt their ambassador would be sent home and ours withdrawn. In this case, harsh words and their ambassador called to Downing Street for a dressing down.
China is a vast country learning to be a global power but where all politics is local. There are over a billion Chinese and the only way the state has of controlling them at the moment it seems is via an iron rod. People in the provinces have not heard of Gordon Brown and the feeling is that China is sovereign and must be strong. China executes thousands of its own people every year (the exact figure is actually a state secret), so to show clemency to someone who smuggled drugs that could kill 28,000 people in to their country would not go down well. Just recently remember, two people were executed over the tainted milk powder scandal after six children died.