China Executes Briton Akmal Shaikh Despite Appeals for Mercy
British citizen Akmal Shaikh was executed by Chinese authorities yesterday for smuggling heroin. As reported earlier on CDT, the case was regarded as controversial given Shaikh’s family’s claims that he had a mental illness and had been manipulated by a gang into smuggling the drugs.
British officials had pressed the Chinese courts to consider Mr. Shaikh’s history of mental disturbance and to allow an independent evaluation of his mental state. But China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court, rejected a last-minute appeal from the family and British officials and allowed the execution to go ahead as scheduled.
Two of Mr. Shaikh’s cousins, Soohail and Nasir Shaikh, who travelled to China to visit him in prison and make a last-minute plea for clemency, said they were “astonished at suggestions that Akmal himself should have provided evidence of his own fragile state of mind,” according to the BBC.
China defended its handling of the case at a regularly scheduled press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, The Associated Press reported. “We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British accusation,” said Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry.
In a statement released after the execution Tuesday, the court called drug crimes “serious criminal offences” that deserved severe punishment.
Xinhua has published the opinions of Chinese law professors who also defend the execution decision:
“According to China’s Criminal Law, the death sentence given to him is legitimate and it has nothing to do with human rights concerns,” said Wang Mingliang, professor of criminal law at Shanghai-based Fudan University.
“Some Western countries also retain capital punishment, and its existence does not equate to a lack of human rights,” Wang said.
Xue Jinzhan, professor of criminal law at the East China University of Political Science and Law, also in Shanghai, said the administration of the death penalty related to a country’s history, culture and other conditions.
China strictly enforced the law without discrimination in handling the case, Chinese legal experts told Xinhua.
“It’s human nature to plead for a criminal who is from the same country or the same family, but judicial independence should be fully respected and everyone should be equal before the law,” Xue said.