Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 11:03 UK

Fry in plea over death row Briton

Akmal Shaikh
Akmal Shaikh was arrested in north west China in 2007

Actor Stephen Fry has appealed to the Chinese government to reconsider the case of a London man facing execution for drug smuggling.

Cab driver Akmal Shaikh, 53, from Kentish Town in north London, was found in 2007 with 4kg (8.8lb) of heroin in a suitcase at China's Urumqi Airport.

Law charity Reprieve said Mr Shaikh was mentally ill and had been tricked.

Mr Fry described Mr Shaikh as "very delusional" and asked China for clemency in this "real case for mercy".

Mr Shaikh's case is pending an appeal at China's Supreme People's Court.

He faces immediate execution if he is unsuccessful.

His family said Mr Shaikh, who is married with three children, has bipolar disorder.

He travelled to China with the promise of being made into a pop star, despite having no singing experience, they said.

Stephen Fry
[This is] a real case where China can demonstrate that it does understand that mental illness can provoke people into doing things that are otherwise intolerable
Stephen Fry

Mr Fry said: "Akmal is a very delusional figure. He has a history of quite extraordinary and perplexing behaviour, mixing grandiosity and mental delusion in a very characteristic way for those who are severely affected by bipolar disorder.

"It's an affliction I suffer from myself to some extent - not, I'm happy to say, as severely as Akmal - but all through my life I've been to some extent dogged by mood swings."

Mr Fry said this was "a real case where China can demonstrate that it does understand that mental illness can provoke people into doing things that are otherwise intolerable".

A Foreign Office spokesman said the prime minister had raised the case with China's leadership "several times".

Consular officials last visited Mr Shaikh on 8 September. They are working with Reprieve to ensure he has appropriate legal representation.



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