Top U.N. officials say the Chinese government should not carry out the execution order for Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old British man convicted of smuggling heroin. His execution is scheduled for Dec. 29, and Shaikh has reportedly exhausted all legal avenues for appeal, according to CNN.
Shaikh's supporters claim China has ignored clear signs of the man's mental illness in the prosecution of his case after his arrest at Urumqi Airport in 2007. Philip Alston, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned that executing a mentally ill would be a "major step backwards for China."
""Both Chinese and international law clearly indicate that a person who committed a crime while suffering from significant mental illness should not be subjected to the death penalty," Alston said in a press statement from British law firm Reprieve.
Chinese officials assert that the execution order did not violate any law. A spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN that Shaikh was afforded every legal right during his trial, reminding that drug trafficking is "a grave crime."
Nevertheless, Reprieve advocates have put forth records of Shaikh's erratic travels, including Poland, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, as well as rambling e-mails sent to British and U.S. government officials as proof of a bipolar disorder that the Chinese government allegedly ignored.
If the Chinese authorities go through with the execution, Shaikh will have become the first European Union citizen to be executed by China in 50 years.