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Executed man's family calls for inquest

PUBLISHED: 13:25 07 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 07 September 2010

THE distraught family of Akmal Shaikh, the Kentish Town man ruthlessly executed in China on charges of drug smuggling, are demanding an inquest into his death. Mr Shaikh, 53, who used to run the mini-cab firm Teksi on Fortess Road, was giv

Ben McPartland

THE distraught family of Akmal Shaikh, the Kentish Town man ruthlessly executed in China on charges of drug smuggling, are demanding an inquest into his death.

Mr Shaikh, 53, who used to run the

mini-cab firm Teksi on Fortess Road, was given a lethal injection by Chinese authorities on December 29 despite pleas for clemency on the grounds he was mentally unwell.

Mr Shaikh was convicted of drug

smuggling but had denied all wrongdoing and his family insist his mental condition - believed to be bipolar disorder - was never taken into account. His execution sparked outrage among human rights charities and the government, and now his family want an inquest to be held to shed light on how the father of three came to be executed.

In a letter to the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Mr Shaikh's brother Akbar said his family was suffering "incredible grief and torment over the many unanswered questions surrounding Akmal's death".

He wrote: "We have begged the Chinese for answers but none have been forthcoming. All this uncertainty is just too much for the family to bear. We therefore implore you to direct a coroner's inquest so that some of our questions can be answered and the terrible mysteries surrounding my brother's apparent death, 7,000 miles from his family and all alone can be resolved for us."

Mr Shaikh was arrested in September 12, 2007, in Urumqi, north-west China and charged with drug smuggling. Yet campaigners claim his mental illness was ignored.

The charity Reprieve, which has been campaigning alongside the family, claims it has medical evidence proving Mr Shaikh had suffered from delusions and had gone to China under the mistaken belief he was off to record a hit single. Once there, they believe he was duped by a criminal gang into unwittingly carrying drugs for them.

Reprieve's director Clive Stafford Smith said Mr Shaikh's family had not been told of his death "until he was already apparently buried in the frozen soil of Urumqi".

"Nobody told the family how or where he would be killed," Mr Stafford Smith added. "No family member or independent observer was allowed to witness his death, view his body or verify his burial. We have only the word of a Chinese press release that he was even killed."

He said an inquest would give the family a "crucial insight" into Mr Shaikh's final hours. Only then can they begin to recover from the trauma of Akmal's lonely and senseless death," he said. The Foreign Office would not comment on the demand from Mr Sheikh's family.


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