Pop Stars and World Peace – Akmal Shaikh’s execution in China

Image of Akmal Shaikh

Akmal Shaikh was a father of five children who had a long history of severe mental illness. He was sentenced to death for drug offences in China. Reprieve fought to save his life right up until the moment, but the Chinese authorities ignored evidence of his mental illness and would not let a Reprieve psychologist access to him.

Akmal was executed by lethal injection at 10.30 on 29 December 2009.

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 not aware it contained 4kg of heroin. He was arrested by the Chinese authorities, tried and sentenced to death.

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

Dr Peter Schaapveld, the forensic psychologist working with Reprieve, reviewed  evidence and issued a further medical opinion in an attempt to persuade the Chinese authorities that Akmal should not be executed.

“The new information just received by Reprieve and which I have now read, confirms the view that Mr. Shaikh was clearly suffering from a severe mental disorder. These witnesses who knew him well have given specific examples of behaviour which are only explained by mental disorder. What is more these examples occur at the material time; that is the time immediately preceding the actions that led to his arrest and death sentence. It is therefore all the more urgent that consideration be given to mental health issues in the case which would in any legal system in the world lessen the severity of a court’ sentence. I can only ask along with his legal team and the family that this be done.”
Dr Peter Schaapveld


Akmal’s tragic execution shows us what we’re up against, and why it’s so vital that vulnerable prisoners like him have someone to stand up for them.

Help defend prisoners like Akmal. Help pay for vital psychiatric assessments and the Reprieve lawyers and investigators who work on cases like his.

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