Latest update: 29/12/2009
- China - death penalty - UK
Supreme Court confirms death penalty for Briton, execution imminent
China's supreme court has upheld the decision to execute a British citizen caught smuggling heroin into the country, despite international calls for clemency and his family's claim that he is mentally unstable and was tricked into trafficking drugs.
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - China's supreme court on Tuesday approved the death sentence of a British citizen caught smuggling heroin in the western city of Urumqi, the Xinhua news agency said, leaving little doubt he would be executed.
Akmal Shaikh's family and the British government had appealed for clemency, arguing the former businessman suffers from bipolar disorder.
The supreme court rejected the appeal saying there was insufficient grounds, and that Shaikh himself did not provide evidence of that.
Shaikh was still "hopeful" when relatives met him in Urumqi this weekend, his cousin Soohail Shaikh told reporters at the Beijing airport late on Monday night. He was due to be executed on Tuesday morning.
"We beg the Chinese authorities for mercy and clemency to help reunite the heartbroken family," Soohail Shaikh said.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week asked China not to execute Shaikh, who was born in Pakistan and moved to Britain as a boy. While not leading to any diplomatic rift, the case could harden public opinion in Britain against China.
Shaikh's defenders, including British rights group Reprieve, which lobbies against the death penalty, say he was tricked into smuggling the heroin by a gang who promised to make him a pop star. Arrested in 2007, a Chinese court rejected his final appeal on Dec. 21.
Reprieve posted on the Internet a recording Shaikh made of a song, "Come Little Rabbit", which it described as "dreadful" but which Shaikh believed would be an international hit and help bring about world peace.
He would be the first European citizen to be executed in China since 1951, Western rights groups say.
Shaikh's family says he suffered from bipolar disorder, and was tricked into becoming a mule by a smuggling gang who promised him a music recording contract.
"The case has been processed in accordance with the law... The defendant's litigation rights and legitimate treatment have been fully granted," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said last week, adding that drug smuggling was considered a "grave crime" internationally.