Monday, December 21, 2009

LONDON (AP) — China plans to execute a British man convicted of drug smuggling before the end of the year, officials said Monday, ignoring a personal appeal from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to spare the man’s life.

Britain’s Foreign Office said that Chinese authorities have told them they plan to execute Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old man whose supporters say has mental health problems and was duped into carrying drugs into China.

“We are alarmed and deeply concerned at this news,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. “We will be using the next few days to renew and intensify our appeal to the Chinese authorities for clemency.”

The office added that mental health concerns seemed to have had no bearing on the final decision to execute Shaikh, despite repeated requests from his lawyer and British officials to have him evaluated for mental illness.

Shaikh, a small business owner from north London, was sentenced to death on Oct. 29, 2008, after being convicted of taking a suitcase containing almost 9 pounds (4 kilograms) of heroin into the far western Chinese city of Urumqi.

Human rights group Reprieve, which has lobbied to save his life, said the father of five has “a lifelong history of very strange behavior” and seems to have been tricked into the smuggling run.

A call seeking comment from China’s Foreign Ministry was not immediately returned late Monday, but China has defended the integrity of the case.

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