Akmal Shaikh was killed this morning by the Chinese government. He was a convicted drug smuggler and China operates a system of capital punishment that decrees that such a crime should be punished by death.
His case has been raised partly due to circumstances which have led to his execution. Shaikh’s family have stated that he suffered from bipolar disorder and is said to have experienced some kinds of delusions which had led him to be ‘duped’ into carrying 4kg heroin with which he was found. He wanted to make a record and save the world. He wanted to be a pop star.
Wanting to be a star is not necessarily any indication of mental instability but looking at some of the circumstances leading to his arrest as well as his belief systems, there does seem to be reasonable grounds for an assessment at least.
Reprieve, a charity working on his behalf as they do for other prisoners whose human rights are being violated, had been trying to arrange an independent medical assessment for Mr Skaikh over the past year – possibly longer – but were blocked by Chinese authorities. They did, however, put together reams of evidence from experts, family members and people who had come into contact with Mr Skaikh in various capacities over the years to verify his delusional thoughts and mental ill-health – in fact, the Reprieve site, gives a robust summation of the circumstances leading to his conviction and ultimately his execution.
Various representations were made at various levels of the government however all amounted to little at the end and so Mr Skaikh died this morning.
Being firmly opposed to capital punishment on any level and for any offense, this again serves to compound my thoughts on the matter. Drug smuggling is wrong, of course it is. It should not go unpunished but these circumstances leave me with greater concern about the situations that exist around the world – not just for British citizens that we might hear about but those who do not have the diplomatic force of overseas press (for what it’s worth) behind them.
Newspapers and various websites are filled with possible repercussions for diplomatic relations between Britain and China. I personally, don’t think there will be any longstanding repercussions there and time and circumstance will move on – but for Akmal Shaikh, it won’t.