- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 30, 2009

URUMQI, China | China brushed aside international appeals Tuesday and executed by lethal injection a British drug smuggler who relatives say was mentally unstable and unwittingly lured into crime.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was “appalled” at the execution of 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh — the first execution of a European citizen in China in nearly 60 years. The British government summoned the Chinese ambassador in London to express its anger.

China defended its handling of the case, saying there had not been documented proof that Shaikh was mentally ill. Beijing also criticized Mr. Brown’s comments, but said it hoped the case would not harm bilateral relations. The Foreign Ministry called on London not to create any “obstacles” to better ties.


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Shaikh’s daughter, Leilla Horsnell, was quoted by the BBC and other British media outlets as saying she was “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.”

Shaikh, a Briton of Pakistani descent, was arrested in 2007 for carrying a suitcase with almost 9 pounds of heroin into China on a flight from Tajikistan. He told Chinese officials he didn’t know about the drugs and that the suitcase wasn’t his, according to Reprieve, a London-based prisoner-advocacy group that had been helping with his case.



He was convicted in 2008 after a half-hour trial.

On Monday, he first learned he was about to be executed, from his visiting cousins. They made a last-minute plea for his life. They said he was mentally unstable and was lured to China from a life on the street in Poland by men playing on his dreams to record a pop song for world peace.

The press office of the Xinjiang region where Shaikh had been held confirmed the execution in a statement handed to journalists.

In his statement issued by the Foreign Office, Mr. Brown said he condemned the execution “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. Brown said.

The Foreign Office said Foreign Minister Ivan Lewis on Tuesday had reiterated to China’s ambassador, Fu Ying, statements by Mr. Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband condemning Shaikh’s execution.

Mr. Brown had spoken personally to China’s prime minister about the case. Mr. Miliband had earlier condemned the execution and said there were unanswered questions about the trial - including whether there was adequate interpretation during the trial.

According to Reprieve, the last European executed in China was Antonio Riva, an Italian pilot who was shot by a firing squad in 1951 after being convicted of involvement in what China said was a plot to assassinate high-ranking communist officials.

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