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Kentish Town man executed in China

PUBLISHED: 11:58 29 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:40 07 September 2010

Akmal Shaikh

Akmal Shaikh

MENTAL health charities have joined the Prime Minister to express their revulsion over the execution of a Kentish Town father in China. On Tuesday morning the Foreign Office confirmed 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh, who previously owned a taxi firm on Fortess R

MENTAL health charities have joined the Prime Minister to express their revulsion over the execution of a Kentish Town father in China.

On Tuesday morning the Foreign Office confirmed 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh, who previously owned a taxi firm on Fortess Road, had been put to death by lethal injection.

Mr Shaikh, a father of three, had been convicted of drug smuggling but he had denied all wrong doing and his family insisted he was mentally ill.

The execution took place despite repeated calls for clemency from human rights organisations, Gordon Brown and Mr Shaikh's own family, who had held an eleventh hour vigil outside the Chinese Embassy.

They issued a statement through the charity Reprieve, which had fought for Mr Shaikh's cause in recent months.

It read: "The family express their grief at the Chinese decision to refuse mercy. They thank all those who tried hard to bring about a different result - including Reprieve, the British Foreign and Commonwealth office, those who attended the vigil, and the organisers of the Facebook group who garnered more than 5000 members in a few short days."

His daughter Leilla Horsnell added: "I am shocked and disappointed that the execution went ahead with no regards to my dad's mental health problems, and I struggle to understand how this is justice."

The family have also asked for 'privacy' so they can come to terms with losing their loved one.

Mr Shaikh was arrested in September 12, 2007 in Urumqi, north west China and charged with drug smuggling but campaigners claimed his mental illness was never taken into account.

Reprieve claimed it had 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 he was duped by a criminal gang into unwittingly carrying drugs for them.

In a statement, Gordon Brown said: "I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms, and am appalled and disappointed that our persistent requests for clemency have not been granted.

"I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken."

Mr Shaikh is the first EU national to be executed in China in more than 50 years.

Reprieve's director Clive Stafford Smith said: "Sad to say, I have watched six people die in execution chambers, and it is as ghastly as it is pointless. Is the world somehow a better place today because China refused to show compassion for an obviously ill man? Of course not. China's refusal to even allow a proper medical evaluation is simply disgusting."

In a statement released by the Chinese Embassy it said Mr Shaikh was convicted of "serious" drug trafficking.

The amount of heroin he bought into China was 4,030g, enough to cause 26,800 deaths, threatening numerous families," it said.

The embassy also insisted Mr Shaikh's right's "were properly respected and guaranteed" and British concerns were "duly noted and taken into consideration".

Charity MDF, The Bipolar Organisation, described the execution as "medieval rough justice" and an "absolute tragedy".

Spokesman Robert Westhead said: "The way the Chinese authorities have stubbornly failed to take account of this poor man's severe mental illness shows that China is still stuck in the dark ages.


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