Akmal Shaikh’s brother Akbar begs for compassion in an urgent letter to the Chinese Ambassador

December 25, 2009

In what could be the last few days of his brother’s life, Akbar Shaikh has made a desperate plea to the Chinese authorities to show compassion for the Shaikh family and halt Akmal’s execution.

Akmal is due to die on December 29. His family are distraught and desperately hope that their plea will reach the Chinese authorities before his death.

In his letter, Akbar describes how his brother’s life was destroyed by mental illness. He also explains how Akmal, when healthy, was a kind and harmless man who was much beloved by his family.

The text of Akbar Shaikh’s letter to the Ambassador is as follows:

Dear Madam Fu Ying,

My brother, Akmal Shaikh, is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday December 29, 2009, following the denial of this appeal by the Supreme People’s Court earlier this week. He was arrested in September 2007 in Urumqi and charged with drug smuggling.

Our whole family were devastated when we learned of his arrest. We did not know that Akmal had travelled to China and it was a terrible shock. When we heard the details of Akmal’s strange behaviour in Poland – that he tried to start an airline, recorded a song and tried to become a pop star, we were greatly saddened. When he went to Poland, he no longer had any family support, and his mental illness obviously worsened. He had no one who could help him recognise that he was ill, or to get treatment for him.

When he is well, my brother is a kind and loving man, who would never harm anyone. The idea that he would be transporting drugs is completely out of character for him. Our family strongly believes that Akmal must have been delusional at the time of his arrest, and it does seem that others took advantage of his mental vulnerability.

We now plead for mercy and clemency. We have the greatest respect for the Chinese government, its people, and the high value placed on the importance of the family. We are not asking for special treatment for Akmal because he is a foreigner, but simply as a family who are devastated at the possibility of losing our son, our brother, our father, our cousin.

Akmal’s three children are distraught. I beg you to spare his children the trauma of losing their father, and to spare me the agony of losing my brother. Akmal’s cousins are also horrified by the prospect of his death, so far away and without the possibility of being able to say goodbye.

Perhaps the most important of all is the effect this would have on my mother. She is a frail woman, and our family have not been able to break the news to her that she may lose her youngest child next week. She is ill with heart problems, and we fear news of Akmal’s death might bring about her own.

Our family appeals to you during this holiday season to show mercy. We appeal, with the greatest of respect, to your sense of humanity and compassion and beg of you to spare his life, for his sake, and the sake of his loving family.

With grateful and respectful thanks,

Akbar Shaikh

Sally Rowen, Legal Director of Reprieve’s death penalty team said:

“During this holiday season, Akmal Shaikh’s family are living through an unimaginable nightmare as they contemplate their loved one’s execution. Akbar’s letter, written with the highest respect for the Chinese people, is a heart-rending plea for compassion. This case is not about politics, but about a family in crisis who are desperately hoping for mercy.”

For more information please contact Clive Stafford Smith (07940 347125; clivestaffordsmith@mac.com) or Sally Rowen at Reprieve (sally.rowen@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1080/ 07773 348833) or go to www.reprieve.org.uk/akmalshaikh.

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.’

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