Akmal Shaikh

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Akmal Shaikh was a father of five children who suffered from severe mental illness. He was sentenced to death for drug offences in China.

Reprieve fought to save Akmal’s life, but the Chinese authorities ignored evidence of his mental illness and refused a full assessment of his capacity.

Akmal was executed at 10:30am on 29 December 2009.

Akmal Shaikh had a lifelong history of exhibiting bizarre behaviour. In the delusional belief that his song ‘Come Little Rabbit’ was going to usher in world peace and make him a huge pop star, Akmal traveled to China after being promised help with his music career. He was given a bag by a man who claimed to be in the music industry, but was unaware it contained 4kg of heroin. He was arrested by the Chinese authorities, tried and sentenced to death in December 2007.

Akmal was denied access to doctors who could have helped him, including Reprieve’s psychologist who was sent to assess his mental state. Statements from British Embassy staff and six other witnesses attesting to his mental illness were ignored by the Chinese authorities.

We are praying that the Chinese courts will see that he is not of sound mind and prevent his execution.
Akbar Shaikh, Akmal’s brother during the trial

Akmal cooperated fully with the police after his arrest – in his delusion, he genuinely believed that the man who gave him the bag would be on the next flight. He helped the police set up a sting operation to catch the man, but he did not show up.

The news of the death sentence did not reach Reprieve, Akmal or his lawyer in China until 10 months later in October 2008, perhaps not coincidentally after the Beijing Olympics had come to a close and were hailed a great success.

During the struggle to save Akmal from execution Reprieve’s investigators took witness statements from those who knew him – one said:

“He seemed crazy to me. He was severely mentally disturbed”.

In a shocking failure of the Chinese legal system, the authorities pressed ahead with the execution of a severely mentally ill man.

Akmal’s tragic execution shows why Reprieve work is so vital. There are many more prisoners who still need our help.

Help fund the defence of people like Akmal. Donate now

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