British national faces death penalty for drug trafficking

Akmal Shaikh, a British man indicted in China for drug trafficking, faces execution on Tuesday after losing his final appeal in China's Supreme Court. Shaikh's two cousins have arrived in Urumqi in a last-ditch bid for clemency.


AFP - British consular officials were in China's far-western Xinjiang region on Monday to assist the family of Akmal Shaikh, a British man set to be executed for drug trafficking.

Shaikh, a 53-year-old father-of-three who supporters say suffers from bipolar disorder, faces execution on Tuesday after losing his final appeal in China's Supreme Court, the British government and his legal team say.

"We have consular staff in Urumqi (the capital of Xinjiang). They are there to assist the Shaikh family," embassy spokesman David Shaw told AFP.

The London-based legal aid group Reprieve said Sunday that Shaikh's two cousins had gone to Urumqi in a last-ditch bid for clemency.

"The Shaikh brothers are... hoping to visit Akmal on Monday morning," the charity said in a statement. "This will... be the first time he will have had direct contact with a family member for two years."

Britain opposes the death penalty and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has repeatedly raised Shaikh's case with China's leaders and appealed for clemency.

The two cousins were also due to deliver a plea of mercy to Chinese President Hu Jintao and the National People's Congress, which receives petitions for pardon or clemency, Reprieve said.

"We plead for his life," Soohail Shaikh, one of the cousins, said in the petition.

The family asked that "a full mental health evaluation be conducted to assess the impact of his mental illness, and that recognition be made that he is not as culpable as those who might, under Chinese law, be eligible for the death penalty."

If the death penalty is carried out, Shaikh would become the first national from a European Union country to be executed in China in 50 years, Reprieve said.

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