British woman offers her savings for a reprieve for Akmal Shaikh; British government place new evidence developed today before Chinese authorities

December 28, 2009

Image of Akmal Shaikh

Akmal Shaikh’s execution is set for 10.30am on Tuesday morning, Urumqi time (2.30am GMT). It is now less than nine hours away.

Meanwhile, a British woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has offered her savings (£8,235) to the Chinese government, for donation to a Chinese charity of their choosing, if they will spare Akmal’s life.

She does not know Akmal, but has had close experience with bipolar disorder, the illness that afflicts him, and recognizes how it could easily have led him to his current predicament. She made her kind offer to the Chinese government, through Reprieve.

“I know that manic episodes can give a person a sense of invulnerability, and that this leads a person to do crazy things that they would not consider when they are stable,”

said the anonymous donor, in a letter to Reprieve.

“It also makes the person vulnerable to the exciting ideas suggested by others. Anyone looking at the pathetic ‘pop song’ written by Mr Shaikh, and hearing of his hopes that this would somehow bring world peace, must agree that he was not rational when he agreed to carry the suitcase with these drugs in it. Asking for compassion for this man obviously does not imply that one condones drug smuggling in any way. Compassion is the most important human virtue.”

Meanwhile, Dr Peter Schaapveld, the forensic psychologist who has generously donated his time towards the case, has reviewed the new evidence, issuing a further medical opinion:

“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.”

The British government has made additional submissions to the Chinese authorities seeking clemency, including the statements of four witnesses who came forward to Reprieve today corroborating Akmal Shaikh’s mental illness, and the photographs submitted by journalist-photographer Luis Belmonte that so dramatically illustrate his illness.

“This anonymous British woman illustrates the Christmas spirit far better than our habitual consumerism,” said Reprieve’s director Clive Stafford Smith. “Let us hope that her kindness finds its due reciprocation from the Chinese authorities.”

For more information the primary contact at Reprieve is Sally Rowen (sally.rowen@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07773 348833) or Clive Stafford Smith (clivestaffordsmith@mac.com).

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

ReprievePO Box 52742London EC4P 4WSTel: 020 7353 4640Fax: 020 7353 4641Email: info@reprieve.org.ukWebsite: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve
PO Box 52742
London EC4P 4WS
Tel: 020 7353 4640
Fax: 020 7353 4641
Email: info@reprieve.org.uk
Website: www.reprieve.org.uk

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900, Registered Company No. 5777831 (England)
Registered Office: 2-6 Cannon Street, London EC4M 6YH;
Chair: Lord Bingham; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner