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Kentish Town businessman facing execution in China

PUBLISHED: 11:44 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 16:30 07 September 2010

Tan Parsons A MAN from Kentish Town who is suffering from mental illness and is accused of smuggling heroin faces execution by Chinese authorities within days. Akmal Shaikh, 51, who used to run the Teksi mini-cab firm in Fortess Road, has been held in cu

Tan Parsons

A MAN from Kentish Town who is suffering from mental illness and is accused of smuggling heroin faces execution by Chinese authorities within days.

Akmal Shaikh, 51, who used to run the Teksi mini-cab firm in Fortess Road, has been held in custody since September 2007 after being arrested with £250,000 worth of heroin at a Chinese airport.

His appeal has now been denied in the High Court and it rests solely with the Supreme People's Court. If that fails, he will face immediate execution by firing squad.

Mr Shaikh's brother Akbar said: "My brother Akmal has struggled for many years with what we now know to be a serious mental illness. We are all very worried for his safety as we know he is unable to defend himself properly.

"He will be extremely disorientated and distressed right now. We are praying that the Chinese courts will see that he is not of sound mind, and prevent his execution."

At the centre of the case is the claim that Mr Shaikh suffers from severe bipolar disorder, which could have affected his behaviour.

According to campaign group Reprieve, Mr Shaikh has always maintained that he went to China to start a career as a pop star, although he has no history of singing in public.

The group is calling on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to intervene on Mr Shaikh's behalf.

It claims to have strong evidence that the father-of-three is seriously mentally ill, most likely suffering delusions related to his bi-polar disorder.

A spokesman said: "He has a lifelong history of erratic and bizarre behaviour. People we have spoken to who knew Akmal have said he seemed crazy and that he was severely mentally disturbed."

It is claimed the Chinese legal system has not taken into account his serious mental illness, and that he has not been given a proper psychiatric assessment.

A string of high profile public figures including actor Stephen Fry have come forward to join the call for clemency.

Reprieve's legal director over the death penalty, Sally Rowen, said: "For mentally ill people like Akmal Shaikh, the experience of imprisonment can be highly traumatic. So imagine the frightening effect of being imprisoned in a country where you cannot speak the language and barely understand what is happening to you.

"I am concerned about the wellbeing of Mr Shaikh, and I hope the Chinese authorities will recognise that he is vulnerable and needs medical treatment."

It is understood that when he was head of the Teksi cab firm, Mr Shaikh was accused of sexually harassing a female member of staff in 2004.

He was ordered to pay £10,000 in unpaid wages and damages by an employment tribunal, although he was not at the hearing to defend himself.

Teksi was subsequently sold to another firm which has no connection with Mr Shaikh.

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