Page last updated at 05:13 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Sadness over British man executed in China

Akmal Shaikh
Akmal Shaikh was arrested in 2007

The cousin of a British man executed in China has said he is "sad and disappointed" by his death.

Akmal Shaikh, 53, a father-of-three from London, was executed on Tuesday after being convicted of drug smuggling despite claims he was mentally ill.

His execution went ahead despite repeated calls from his family and the British government for clemency.

Soohail Shaikh thanked the government for its support, and the Chinese for letting him visit his cousin.

He and his brother Nasir Shaikh had travelled to China to visit their cousin in prison and make a last-minute plea for clemency.

'Powerless'

Speaking to the BBC as he arrived at Beijing airport to fly back to the UK, Soohail Shaikh said: "I got a lot of tremendous support from the British government. I would like to thank the foreign secretary, the foreign minister and all the British consular here."

Akmal Shaikh's cousin, Nasir Shaikh: "We would like the Chinese authorities to know our anger and disgust"

He also thanked the Chinese government for allowing a visit to Mr Shaikh the day before he was executed.

But in a letter to The Guardian, Mr Shaikh's cousins Amina and Ridwan Shaikh said the UK had sought to protect its economic interests, rather than confront China over the case.

It said: "Did the British government pull out its diplomats in protest? Did it have a hard-hitting strategy to persuade the Chinese authorities to change their decision?

"This is an example of Britain's powerlessness in the world."

On Tuesday, Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis told the Chinese ambassador "China had failed in its basic human rights responsibilities".

In a statement issued after the execution, the Chinese Embassy said Mr Shaikh's rights "were properly respected and guaranteed" and British concerns were "duly noted and taken into consideration".

It said: "As for his possible mental illness which has been much talked about, there apparently has been no previous medical record."

CHINA DEATH PENALTY
China executed 1,718 people in 2008, according to Amnesty International
Last year 72% of the world's total executions took place in China, the charity estimates
It applies to 60 offences, including non-violent crimes such as tax fraud and embezzlement
Those sentenced to death are usually shot, but some provinces are introducing lethal injections

A report from the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said that China's Supreme People's Court had not been provided with any documentation proving that Mr Shaikh had a mental disorder.

Mr Lewis said the government had made 27 representations to China in two years, and believed it had done everything it possibly could.

Mr Shaikh is the first EU national to be executed in China in more than 50 years.

In its statement, the Chinese Embassy said Mr Shaikh was convicted of "serious" drug trafficking.

Mr Shaikh's family said he had been delusional and duped into carrying a suitcase that did not belong to him when he was found with 4kg of heroin in Urumqi, north-west China, in September 2007.

His daughter has said drug smugglers in Poland convinced him they would make him a pop star in China.



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